“Mythology. Swimming. Late nights. Dartmoor. Cornwall. Fireworks. Money. Death. Success. Failure. Religion. Health. Boredom. Love. Hate. Sex. Royan.” This listing of experimental pop and piano-based Mantaraybryn’s influences showcases the range of topics and emotions covered in their music. Comprised only of 19-year-old Bryn Evans, who writes all the songs on his parents’ piano in Cornwall, Mantaraybryn becomes the perfect sad summer band without crossing the line into depressing.
Its first full-length album, Dark Shapes in the Water, was released on Mar. 24, 2016 and may launch Mantaraybryn into the spotlight Evans has so long desired. The opening song, “Wait for the White,” is slow, piano-based and longing with lyrics like, “Nothing I’d rather want than for you to fall / From that city of which you aspire.” After adding an organ for a more dramatic vibe, it’s the perfect opening for the album, combining piano and electronica to create an entirely new sound.
My personal favorite track, and the first I heard off the album, “Bullets in the Wind,” tells a story about being unsatisfied with where you are. With a more electronic feeling than the opening track, it still showcases Evans’ vocals when he sings, “Two men on the horizon and they’re both holding a gun / Number two is far more quiet / He’s just as dangerous as number one.” Following that, “Tropics” is the summer song you’ve been waiting for. A very tropical vibe (obviously) with steel drums at the forefront takes you far away from snowy Ann Arbor and off to a vacation destination, singing, “The waves on my skin / They’ll push me so hard / And push me back in.”
Near the end of the album, “Health” is simplistic, electronic and lyric-based when Evans’ sings, “I’ve been running so fast / No one knows I tried / Where are you, my old health?” It asks questions of where youth has gone and losing time, and the juxtaposition between upbeat tune and slightly more depressing lyrics makes for an interesting combination.
“Pristine” embodies Evans’s obsession with water and uses a simplistic approach to instrumentals to focus on the story he’s telling, singing, “Like those crystal water summers / I am happy under it / Just me in the sea / With blue light for company.” From losing opportunities to not living up to the expectations of the American Dream, “Pristine” covers ground quickly and thoroughly.
Closing with “I’ve Never Seen a Cylcone,” Mantaraybryn slows everything down and epitomizes Evans’ musical style as he sings, “I’ve never seen a hurricane / But I know it exists / No, I’ve never seen a cyclone / But I know it exists.” With harmonizing background vocals and a steady drumbeat, Mantaraybryn’s Dark Shapes in the Water ends the way it started — longing and waiting for more.