Man Made Mountain - Average Man (Review)
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
Last week, Melbourne based duo Man Made Mountain quietly released what is arguably the smoothest album to come out of 2021 so far. Entitled ‘Average Man’, it is by no means an average feat of an album. The 18-track LP was toiled over and worked on for five years between not just the pair behind Man Made Mountain (producer Billy Hoyle and vocalist Cazeaux O.S.L.O), but also the litany of artists who were expertly chosen to contribute to such an eloquent and wonderful project.
This album is a love letter to hip-hop, R&B and soul music, and is filled with artists across the realm of hip-hop. By including such a diverse range of talents, the duo sought to embody the multi-faceted and diverse nature of the Australian hip-hop scene and in particular, their hometown of Melbourne. In and amongst the incredible track selection on the album are a diverse mix of tongue-in-cheek interludes, some of which carry the impact of full-length songs in their own right. Read on for our full breakdown of ‘Average Man’.
‘Hypocritical’ ft N’Fa Jones
As an opening track, ‘Hypocritical’ is a wonderful microcosm for the album in its entirety. Tender, inviting instrumentals and deeper conscious lyricism pervade this track and the album as a whole. Cazeaux O.S.L.O’s refrain on the track is excellent; offering up a catchy, ominous-in-tone perspective from those who have been oppressed and forced to live outside the view of the mainstream. N’Fa Jones’ verses act to breakdown the hypocrisies that occupy our world, and in particular the myopic views of those bereft of empathy and fueled by misguided racism. A strong start to the album.
‘Feel Like I Know You’
‘Feel Like I Know You’ is akin to hearing an explosion of euphoria. The sensual humming works in tandem with the delicately precise guitar strings and synth keys to provide Cazeaux O.S.L.O with the platform to ponder a cosmic connection with a significant other. A brief interlude track which packs plenty of raw emotion.
‘Faithfool’ ft Silentjay & LUCFR
A delicate playful vibrato opens what is undoubtedly one of the grooviest tracks on this album. Hoyle’s production on this (deep reverberating piano keys and an accompanying trumpet) had me enchanted and moving to the music. Featured artists Silentjay and LUCFR coolly deliver musings on love, desire and yearning, with Silentjay offering up a deliciously astute flow which is in keeping with the track’s hassle-free aesthetic.
‘Ride It Out’ ft LUCFR
‘Ride It Out’ is a bouncy track with its focus set on the universal experience of a ‘night out’. The way Cazeaux O.S.L.O’s opening vocals unexpectedly lead in to LUCFR’s flawless delivery of “right on, right on, right on, let me get mine on” is essential listening. I can only describe it as the kind of moment where a piece of music truly brightens your day. Another standout moment of intelligent and expertly-chosen production in an album full of such bliss.
‘Feels Right’ ft Tom Scott & LUCFR
The slow-jam opening of ‘Feels Right’ is excellently setup alongside Cazeaux O.S.L.O’s echoey singing in order to suck the listener in as soon as that instrumental speeds up. With the backdrop of some lovely guitar strings, rapper Tom Scott proceeds to spit out a thoughtful, rapid-fire verse about missing a significant other and the feeling he’s still chasing, switching between bars and vocals with ease. LUCFR’s pertinent refrain then reminds the listener to savour their time and to move at their pace, paving the way for the track to finish on an emotive guitar riff that just feels right.
‘Better (Interlude)’ ft LUCFR & Danika Smith
‘Better’ comes together wonderfully as an interlude track, combining Cazeaux O.S.L.O’s psychedelically enhanced vocals and Danika Smith’s breathtaking jazzy singing in order to create a reflective mood that encapsulates the desire for love despite one’s own flaws.
‘Fire Out’ ft LUCFR & Sensible J
I adore LUCFR’s contribution on ‘Fire Out’. His spacey & eclectic lyrical output and the engineering on his vocals vibrate alongside the hallucinogenic instrumentals and Cazeaux O.S.L.O’s invigorating chorus. The self-aware gospel monologue that precedes the track’s soulful conclusion testifies that “Kanye will save you”; a deliciously ironic statement that pokes fun at our often ridiculous and surreal world.
‘Drugs Don’t Work’ ft LUCFR
‘Drugs Don’t Work’ is a track which manifests as a question of an individual’s capacity to end the reliance on their vices in to a song. Often our vices mask an inability to discover what fulfills us and Cazeaux O.S.L.O makes it clear that the high we chase isn’t worth the subsequent fall. In addition, the trippy production by Hoyle emits feelings of longing; smartly suited to the theme of the track.
A dreamlike interlude which illustrates the power of simple, captivating percussion behind a ‘relaxation tape’ designed to lessen the debilitating effect of one’s insomnia; which ultimately causes a fatal crash and a realisation that “the drugs don’t work”. Unassuming, but powerful nonetheless.
A ferocious bassline takes centre stage in this interlude, giving Cazeaux O.S.L.O ample room to express his desire for a heartfelt entanglement with a lover in the grooviest of ways.
‘Where Would I Go’ ft LUCFR & Danika Smith
Lost love is devastating. And yet, the anxiety about the end of a relationship can damage oneself even more so. ‘Where Would I Go’ explores the damage of such illusory thinking in a deeply human way, running through the highly affected thoughts and ruminations of one person in fear of losing another. Danika Smith’s vocals will fill every fibre of your being; leading your heart and soul along a melancholic journey in to the dread of heartbreak.
‘The Truth’ ft Sampa The Great
‘The Truth’ builds on the observational conscious rap groundwork laid by ‘Hypocritical’ earlier on; and the result is truly something special. Sampa The Great’s involvement is of a high calibre as well, with the final product a flourish of her greatest attributes mixed altogether. The subtle way the production experiments with the artists’ vocals on ‘The Truth’ is brilliant and wholly commendable.
‘Maunga Child by Ria Masae’
The fact that such an inclusion does not feel out place on this album is a testament to what has been crafted around it. ‘Maunga Child’, delivered triumphantly by New Zealand poet Ria Masae, is a spiritually-driven tale of entering parenthood. This is a beautiful and gracefully humorous inclusion on a one-of-a-kind album.
‘Supernatural’ ft Tom Scott & LUCFR
What better way to culminate this album than to amp up the groove factor and introduce the track by letting Cazeaux O.S.L.O do his thing vocally. The ever-consistent LUCFR delivers nostalgic bars reflecting on love and relationships, both past and present. This then allows for Tom Scott to show is appreciation for the mystical, underappreciated beauty of the women in our world; the creators and divine givers of life.
‘Average Man’ is made to enhance your soul; to touch that part of you that simply wants to unwind from the world around you, be with those you love and to laugh. The consistency of its mood appears to almost gesture to the listener each and every time to hear just one more song, and each and every time you’re impressed by what’s been laid out in front of you. The combination of infectious piano keys and cheerful percussion comforts the listener and allows the lyrics to flow effortlessly.
The album is an assembly of smooth listens laced with the observant humour of a pair who have grown to form a grounded view of the world around them and who now simply want to just make their music. The album transcends the limitations of tradition in the hopes of creating an essential, uplifting experience for the listener. Although it undoubtedly draws from all over the hip-hop, R&B and soul spectrum in order to deliver an album that hits all the right notes, and then some.
The album is bookended by two voice messages; one from the album’s 2015 starting point and the other taken from its late 2020 ending point. Both illustrate how in five years so much can change and so much can remain the same; but the ultimate point of it is to go through life with the honesty, perspective and self-awareness to love and appreciate the world around you.
Published February 18th, 2021