If you were alive in the 90’s one thing you probably remember is an exorbitant amount of romantic comedies that came and went. I was sometimes forced to watch them with my girlfriend at the time and on almost every occasion I would think “this wouldn’t happen in real life”. It didn’t shed any light on the truth. Why do I bring this up for an album review you ask? Well, it seems as if the Manual Heart Massage by Ginseng aims to do exactly the opposite of what those movies did. The album attempts to be as raw and truthful as possible. It is even mentioned that “You won't find any courting songs or breakup ballads” on the album. It’s something you have to respect if even you don’t like the music because truth is something that we are all looking for and connect with.
Truth be told I have very little info about Ginseng. I don’t have any names or history so we are going to go with what we have. The songs are pretty much vacant of percussion and revolve around guitar and piano. Ginseng flirts with different styles but you do hear piano bar type blues that reminded me of Billy Joel as well as remnants of the softer side of Guns N Roses.
The production is far from perfect as the guitars sound to closely miked and thin along with a number other of minor problems. Overall, it wasn’t too bad considering it was recorded with a Zoom r8 portable recorder.
The album begins with one of the strongest songs on the album entitled “Gall Bladder” which revolves around little more than his piano and vocals. I thought the vocalist sounds especially good here. He put some serious gusto into his voice and you can feel it resonate.
“Thorax” adds some guitar in the mix. It was in need of some proper EQing and compression. That being said the song is pretty strong and establishes the vocalist has a good voice. I started to enjoy his singing style the more I listened too the album. “Riverbed” is a pretty melancholy almost chilling song about a lady who drowned in a lake and for weeks she went unknown with no name, no identity, and no family.
The album ends with “Hypothalamus (Part One)” and “Hypothalamus (Part two). “Hypothalamus (Part One)” sounds like the introduction to a sci-fi movie about a dystopian future. It revolves around spoken word which is served on a canvas of disparate electronic elements. “Hypothalamus (Part two)” reverts to a piano based but is sprinkled with electronic elements. The end of the song was engaging and pointed to a different direction for Ginseng.
Manual Heart Massage has its mishaps. Not all the songs work and sometimes seems a bit overly serious. A little bit of humor or irony injected in there might not have been a bad thing. Overall, more of it works then it doesn’t and is worth a spin.
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