JACK MANIAK - Code 403

Jack Maniak - Code 403

10 songs
46:20 minutes
***** ***
Jet Set Trash


Jack Maniak is the alter ego of French musician Jean-Philippe Ouamer who’s been playing the drums for about ten years with violin backed death metal band Idensity, and lately made a name for himself for being one half of the avantgarde metal duo Område. From belonging to a full-fledged band to joining a duo, it must have been only a question of time until he did something all by himself. His track record shows that he was never one for your generic kind of metal music, so it is no surprise that with Jack Maniak, he is offering once again something completely different.

Jean-Philippe is a child of the Seventies, and he spent his teenage years – just like me, by the way – in the Eighties. A simple look at the cover artwork of Code 403 shows that his debut solo album is a homage to exactly that era. Jack Maniak combines synthwave with hard rocking guitars, with the ten tracks on the album brimming with vintage keyboard sounds, heavy synth chord progressions, cheesy Eighties electro drums and distorted guitar riffs working to give it all a rocking backbone. It’s the kind of music one heard in made-for-TV action movies that back then were broadcast on the new and exciting private TV channels (before they were taken over by the housewives a few years later) or also in the TV shows that were famous back in the day. I am thinking mostly of Knight Rider in this instance.

If you prefer that I come up with musical parallels, think for instance Zombi without the prog but with guitars. Or maybe like Trans Am, although I have to admit that Jack Maniak is much more fun. As a matter of fact, this tribute to the neon coloured plastic era of the Eighties feels very tongue-in-cheek, and there are references to cult films like Gremlins and Terminator.

The songs are mostly based on the very dominant keyboard sounds and the pouncing, nearly militaristic drums, with the latter spoiling the listener with these weird and vibrant electro drum fills that furthermore enhance the nostalgic Eighties feeling. The guitar’s function is to create a rocking vibe in the background, and there might even be a few solos to be discovered, although the music’s main function is to get the people dancing. The only criticism is that while I appreciate the dense sound that is so typical for this kind of music, one would like occasional moments where things would be scaled down a bit, to leave it all more room to breathe. The ten songs are all terrific powerhouses that would work well for a soundtrack of a tacky action movie set in some kind of post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, as imagined thirty years ago. Let’s agree to see this as a charming piece of retro-futurism that you can enjoy any way you like, ironically or not!

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