Life Coach is a collaboration. Following Phil Manley’s 2011 solo debut Life Coach, which Aquarius Records called, “a serious, and seriously kick ass slab of modern minimal krautrock,” Manley set about writing a set of songs that he could perform live. After writing and tracking guitar, bass, synth, and vocals on his own, he recruited his friend and former Golden band mate Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta, One Day As A Lion), with whom Manley has been playing music for two decades, as the drummer and second official member of Life Coach. The complimentary kinship between Manley’s tightly constructed songs and Theodore’s unrestrained playing was instant. Rounded out by the addition of Isaiah Mitchell (Earthless, Golden Void), who contributes lead guitar on several songs, Life Coach was born as an entity unto itself.
Alphawaves was written as a singular piece, each song flowing into the next, forming a dynamic musical narrative. The record is propulsive with a sense of forward motion never receding; it is telling that when performing live, Life Coach plays the album to completion. The record opens with “Sunrise,” a tanpura based drone track meant to ease the listener into the album gently and without expectation. The title-track blooms from inside the sound of the tanpura, kicking the album into high gear. “Alphawaves” pulsates, Theodore’s motorik beat melding with low synth throbs while Manley and Mitchell’s intertwining guitars radiantly beam. Tracks like “Fireball” and “Mind’sEye” feature a hard rock edge that hasn’t been heard from Manley since his work with The Fucking Champs. As the palm muted guitar chug of “Mind’s Eye” melts into the heavy, cathartic drone of “Ohm,” the circular nature of Alphawaves becomes apparent.
In addition to being a founding member of Trans Am, and playing with The Fucking Champs, Oneida, and Jonas Reinhardt, Manley’s notoriety as a producer and engineer only continues to grow. Manley has recorded albums by Wooden Shjips, Golden Void, Date Palms, Barn Owl, The Fresh & Onlys and many others at LCR in San Francisco, and Manley’s recording skills are apparent when listening to Alphawaves. Theodore’s drums were recorded in his Malibu garage and only first takes, with no revisions, were used. Alphawaves delivers technicolor charm and grit in equal measures. It emanates positive energy, yogic in its approach and euphoric in its execution.