World-renowned handpan player and composer Manu Delago returns with a brand-new album, which comes hot off the heels of his acclaimed awe-inspiring short film and album project, Parasol Peak – the transfixing Circadian. The album, which is set for release on 13th September via One Little Indian Records (home to Delago’s musical peer Björk), takes the listener through the cycle of sleep stages, emulating REM, light sleep, deep sleep and abrupt awakening. Delago was inspired by the concept of individual circadian rhythms, due in part part to his own lack of sleep as an international touring musician with Björk, Olafur Arnalds, Cinematic Orchestra and Anoushka Shankar.
“Before I made this album I had a phase of very intense touring with multiple trips to five different continents, without a break for several months, “ said Delago, explaining the nocturnal theme of the record.
“It literally felt like touring with four bands simultaneously and in my dreams, the music and crews started to commingle. I found it interesting how my brain was trying to digest all these experiences during sleep hours. In fact, during REM sleep the brain is very creative. In that stressful touring period, I started to consciously appreciate sleep and how much it contributes to mastering any challenge.”
Circadian takes the listener on a journey through the night, beginning in the late afternoon, moving into sunset and night time, through to the morning. “Title track ‘Circadian’ employs a repetitive 24-note-pattern for this reason, with some small rhythmic variations symbolising that our 24-hour-rhythm is not perfect, and everyone has individual variations in their sleep pattern – in my own case often due to jetlag” explains Delago.
A departure from the Austrian musician’s revered electronic-leaning work in Silver Kobalt and Metromonk, Delago incorporated percussive instruments found on those worldwide tours – from places such as Vietnam, Russia, Turkey and Indonesia – with an aim to create an electronic-inspired album in an acoustic form. “I wanted to incorporate elements of the electronic music that influences me; I used clarinets and accordion-like warm analogue synthesizers and added strings and trombone to give it an orchestral but yet very intimate character“ he explains.
Lead single ‘The Silent Flight of the Owl’ was written to emulate the sound of an owl’s wings, with woodwind instruments gently performing an acoustic version of analogue synth and a delay pedal. The track is an ode to an unusual experience Delago had a few years ago; “I had an encounter with an owl while I was brushing my teeth late at night. The owl landed a metre away from me just outside the window on the ledge. It is very unusual for owls to come that close. When I told the story to the people who lived there, they didn’t believe me. To be honest, I’m still not fully sure if the encounter with the owl really happened or if it was a dream.”
Delago and his ensemble even went so far as to record one of the central pieces, 20-minute long track ‘Delta Sleep’, by candlelight in the dead of night through to the early hours of the morning, a track that symbolises the long deep-sleep phase of one’s cycle. “I didn’t go for the obvious choice by placing that deep sleep phase at the end of the album. Instead it ends with a musical alarm clock, a Zeitgeber that starts another precious day.”