[Dark Corners sleeve]"Dark Corners" (Album, 2007)

Sunshine Music

Since their first release in 2003, Munkie have built up a respectable following online and have earned airplay on over 200 independent radio stations worldwide and licensed songs for use in film soundtracks. Jason Clark handles all the music and Kate Peters the vocals. Hiding behind some dismal front cover design is the duo's third album. Predecessor Chemical Process sold in excess of 3,500 copies online and that's no mean feat these days. If numbers are any measure of recognition of talent - I know they are not, but if they were - then Dark Corners (in spite of that shoddy sleeve art) should surpass that with some ease. Their skill at creating good song titles continues apace. Here they are by turn intriguing - Fake Smiles of A Plastic Man (could be on form John Foxx), and poetic - Made of Pieces. I'm liking the CD designed to look like the face of a clock too.

In the three years between the previous album and this one there's been a clear step up in songwriting and production. More firmly rooted in the downtempo/dreamy pop area, this is by far the most cohesive and consequently successful Munkie release to date. Although happy to stick with their own Sunshine Music label, Munkie could comfortably sit alongside wider known alternative acts on a variety of bigger European labels. I imagine their romantic but frequently dark pop sound would go down a storm in countries like France. The next step career wise is for Clark and Peters to take a few well-chosen live slots around the UK and, if possible, Europe. Having done so they should be able to play live on a regular basis on a pretty wide circuit and build the real-world following their music now deserves. They might want to pick up the phone either to Greenhaus or UK promoters Flag to try and set up a few support slots for when Greenhaus next tour. The first Munkie release that one can comfortably commend to a wider audience and the album that I know will get repeat plays over the years to come. 7/10

Rob Dyer (January 2009)

[Chemical Process sleeve]"Chemical Process" (Album, 2004)

Sunshine Music

Self-released album #2 from Leeds-based outfit Munkie continues to reflect main man Jason Clark's varied musical interests and inspiration. Even the accompanying press quotes include: "A quality slice of ambient music" only to be immediately followed by: "Some of the funkiest drum patterns I've heard in ages". They can't both be right, can they? Well, when it comes to Munkie, they can. For Munkie's strength is also their biggest weakness - their desire not to conform to simple pigeonholes and labels - or genres. A major label's marketing nightmare is the internet's free-for-all.

Opener Antidote to Strychnine instantly proves there has been progression since the debut just a year before and makes me think of the latter day downtempo of Greenhaus. Chemical Process is itself a clever piece of minimalist, repetitive electro - more along these lines would be welcome. But then Shatter The Circles showcases Munkie's ability to meld influences into a perfectly balanced piece of lilting electronica - complete with summer evening bird song. Clark and/or vocalist Kate Peters certainly has/have a way with words. This is lyrically solid and songs titles are well-chosen. The quality of the songwriting is improving, albeit the finished work still a tad uneven and held back from time to time by cheap sounding samples and production (cf (We Are) Automated). Nevertheless, still headed in the right direction. Meanwhile, Chemical Process just gets better as it unfolds and is certainly worth a stop along the way. 6/10

Rob Dyer (January 2009)

[Progression sleeve]

"Progression" (Album, 2003)

Sunshine Music

For what is essentially a self-release, this is pretty impressive on several fronts. For starters there are ten decent tracks. The there's the fourteen page, full-colour booklet featuring a variety of images evoking the main essence of each of the songs. This concludes with a refreshingly unpretentious set of sleeve notes from Jason Clark that offer a greater insight into the compositions. (Apparently the 14-pager was for the promotional copies only. This was shortened for the subsequent commercial release.) The recurrent theme that the world is moving too fast and the human race cannot cope with the stress levels is something I can certainly relate to.

Stylistically, Clark draws on various influences including early 80s electro/synth/pop, but perhaps more interestingly his interest in various ethnic and world music styles (to say nothing of psychedelic rock), also comes into play. The results blending sequencing and programming with live guitars. Whilst there is a faint sense of continuity, the influences are clearly wide ranging and the results are pretty varied (with both male and female and vocodered vocals). If pushed, Clark himself lumps for 'experimental techno'. Not sure I'd use the term 'techno' myself (Progression is generally far more temperate than that would imply), but the experimental bit is right enough. Something we're always keen to hear at DSO. Like many experiments it doesn't always work. Nevertheless, it offers up plenty of fine mood moments and there's clearly lots of future potential here. 6/10

Rob Dyer (July 2005)