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Chicago-via-Virginia’s Manishevitz are a group of smart-aleck musicmakers that embody the inbred concepts of growth and change. Over time they have quietly amassed one of the more important and engaging musical histories in recent memory, though the process is never close to completion—for their work also embodies two other inbred symbiotic qualities: reinvention and inspiration.

Manishevitz truly came into its own with the 1999 Jagjaguwar release “Grammar Bell and the All Fall Down,” an affair of bluesy bedroom murmurs and lyrical high-jinx that showcased singer and songwriter Adam Busch’s broad range of expressive, romantic musical tricks. With the delicate layering of Via Nuon’s guitar lines, “Grammar Bell” was a seasoned debut indicative of promise. Bolstered by that belief, Busch and Nuon left Virginia to settle in the expansive urban environs of Chicago.

Convening in a neighborhood populated by frowning Eastern European immigrants, Busch and Nuon sought out a group of musicians to contribute to what would become 2000’s “Rollover.html>Rollover.” With a magic ease, a cast of stalwart Chicago musicians joined them: bassist Ryan Hembrey (Edith Frost, Pinetop Seven, Boxhead Ensemble), drummer Jason Adasiewicz (Central Falls), saxophonist Nate Lepine, and the revered cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (Terminal 4, Ken Vandermark, Peter Brotzmann Tentet). “Rollover” cast aside the bedroom aesthetic almost entirely, showcasing an evolving musicality, and more importantly, an emerging band unity that resulted in a highly focused, esoteric record of increasing confidence and presence.

And they have continued to transform themselves. With Busch and Nuon symbiotically and equally contributing to songwriting, the band coalesced into a cohesive whole and Manishevitz emerged as a completely new and distinct entity. First heard on 2002’s “Private Lines” EP, and fully realized on 2003’s “City Life,” the band has abandoned the sparse arrangements on their previous releases, and surfaced as a grand production—in scale, sound, and vision. “City Life” is a record that thematically touches upon tales of urban anonymity, adolescent awe, and the wide-eyed ache which results. Manishevitz craftily enhances these themes with elegantly arranged strata of sax, cello, flute, cornet, piano, jazz squalls, percussive energy, and memborable anthems. Think Roxy Music at their most triumphant, Sonic Youth at their most psychedelic, Brian Wilson at his most tortured, and the Fall at their most playfully abrasive. There are not many bands today making music as inventive as theirs, and like a city distilling its past and assembling its future, Manishevitz continues to challenge itself with a matchless attitude and an unparalleled identity.

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