While many a Sheffield native occupies an important place in the history of European experimental techno -- the city produced Robert Gordon, LFO, Richard H. Kirk, and 808 State, among others -- none have mixed professional extremes more than producers Jonathan Quarmby and Kevin Bacon. Known in the world of ambient and experimental techno as Manna, Quarmby and Bacon are perhaps better known in the land of AOR, where their CV includes labels such as Elektra, Polydor, Wau! Mr. Modo, BMG and Island, and artists such as Robert Palmer, Finley Quaye, Audioweb, Longpigs, and the Gyres. Although work released under Manna's own name includes only two full-lengths and several singles (all through Belgium-based R&S offshoot, Apollo), the group's role in filling in the gaps in interest between the dancefloor and the home listening audience has been important as well.
Formed in 1991, Manna released their debut single -- "R-Earth" -- that same year on Wau! Mr. Modo (home, at the time, of the Orb). A bit of an underground hit, the track was licensed by R&S sublabel, Apollo, which signed the group in 1993. Manna's self-titled debut followed in 1995, and displayed the more upbeat, funk-fueled brand of ambient-techno the label had begun to be known for (through Apollo artists such as Tournesol and Sun Electric). The group's sound is a clean, warm mix of analog synths and sampled and carefully treated percussion, combined with 808 and 909 drum sounds (usually altered or muted in the mix) and more standard acoustical instruments (guitar, bass, traps). The group also shies away from multitracking, preferring to mix elements live in the studio (the fold-out on their Apollo debut depicts the scattershod arrangement of their Sheffield studio). Manna continued to record between other, more mainstream production work, and their Apollo follow-up 5:1 appeared in 1998. ~ Sean Cooper