Feral Spells – Mana Phase I, Illusion Exit

Feral Spells is a digi pop/experimental outfit from Portland Oregon. Their latest release Mana, Phase I: Illusion Exit comes out in April 2021. It’s a trippy experience, set in a colorful afterlife that exists in a digital world. We explore this weird and whimsical existence through buzzing transmissions and psychedelic digi-scapes, all expressed by intricate shoegaze effects and synth patches.

It’s a concept album that’s very cohesive to its themes – all of which explore and question life and its purpose through the lens of a computer’s astral projection. An escapist experience full of both dreamy and robotic textures that make for an electrifying listen.      

The first three tracks introduce the album’s main narrative. “Soundtrack To Your Death” starts with subtle nature sounds, but then spirals into an increasingly complex tapestry of analogue synths, suggesting that we have left the real world and are falling into a digital rabbit hole. Follow up “Rituals” follows the narrator’s reflection on their life right after entering this realm of cyber-death. It’s cynical and full of regret, stating that: “if I were to do it again / I’d make the same mistakes”. A life left unsatisfied and devoid of meaning, yet in “Finally, You’re Awake!” they are greeted by a warm welcome. A male and female vocal duet embraces our protagonist, singing: “you’re safe now, and we like you / just how you are”. A banquet of bouncy synth pads and preppy melodies makes it really feel like you’re in a world that would accept you no matter how weird you are.

The rest of the album feels like going on a field trip around this whimsical world. “Cynical Mystic” is a fuzzy psych rock extravaganza while “Our World Is Loud” is a calming breeze of gliding harmonies. “Colors Shone through the Cracks in My Screen” mixes glitch hop with video game synths and transcends them into galactic proportions. By this time I’m completely immersed and my weirdness tolerance has blown the roof. 

By the tail end of the album. Mana Phase I resolves into increasingly hopeful and larger than life themes. “Your Beacon, My Lens” is filled with exultation and glee, with a climax that culminates in a mathematical nirvana. “For A Moment We Were Seamless” feels like a roaring, triumphant ocean, and closer “Adolescent Sentinel” is a surfy and dancy pop tune that ends on a high note. 

Feral Spells conjures digital psychedelia into something you’ve most likely never experienced before. Step into the trance, it’s wonderful.

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