Oliver Mann – ‘The Possum Wakes at Night’

December 2, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Big Issue, #316, November 2008.

possum_cover

The Possum Wakes at Night
Oliver Mann
(Preservation/inertia)
****

Oliver Mann is a walking paradox, a charming tangle of contradictions. Over 12 stunningly layered gestures, second album The Possum Wakes at Night sees the Melbourne songwriter and master-vocalist – younger brother of Grand Salvo’s Paddy Mann – craft a sound world of peculiar polarity, of emotive candour and playful anecdote.

It’s Mann’s voice that is the obvious starting point; a bellowing, operatically trained baritone that shakes pictures from the walls is easily as it floats to a lilting high-register. It’s one of the most striking instruments you’ll hear. The beauteous historical ballad ‘By the Rock I Roll’ and the heart-rending brotherly harmony of ‘Evie‘ see it at its two wonderful extremes.

But Mann is far more than just a vocalist. In fact, it’s his deft song writing touches and wide-eyed arrangements that are The Possum’s biggest and most daring revelations. With the help of classical, rock and folk contributors, he traverses anything from traditional canons and folk ditties, to shimmering feedback drones and fascinating splashes of field recordings.

The floating pulse ‘Slow Dancing’ and the field-recording drenched ‘Crackers Cracking’ are two of the finest examples. But Mann’s sheer inimitability is found across this album’s unusual breadth. It’s an expanse worth travelling.

Dan Rule

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