Nov 022023

You can tell from the title of this feature that we’re about to host an album premiere. But it’s not a typical album premiere — far from it.

Apart from the atypical nature of the audio experience, the noisemaker behind this project also created a video for the entire record, divided in a way that provides separate moving pictures for every one of the record’s 20 tracks. You’ll see the video below. In addition, we’re including the artist’s commentary about the songs.

But that’s not all. There’s also a video game that’s being released today — a free video game — with each level of the game play corresponding to a track on the album, and other experiences featured through Art Mode because some of the tracks don’t last long enough for you to do anything but stare.

Oh, and the record is also being released with an art book that features companion art pieces which visually tie-in with the music video and the video game.

So before going further we should explain more specifically what the hell we’re talking about. What we’re talking about is an album named Drawing Secret Circles, which lasts a whole 14 minutes. It’s the second album by the New York City-based “avant-grindcore/hardcore” solo project Manipulator.

The person behind Manipulator is Andrew Notsch – also of instrumental progressive/post-metal band This Is The Last Time and formerly of technical death metal outfit Sunless, among others. On Drawing Secret Circles he brought some guests along for the hellride:

Longtime collaborator Tim Bradley (This Is The Last Time) as lyricist; guest vocals from Derrick Karg, Tim Bradley, and Juan Vargas; and additional guitar on “Fear And Mystery Drown” by Lucas Wyssbrod (Monovoth).

The video game was developed by Andrew‘s old friend and former bandmate P.J. Randol (SpaceMicroscope Studios), carrying forward a collaboration that also includes work on another SpaceMicroscope video game being released today — SwordCar.

Well, we ought to get to what we’re premiering, but it seems only right to first crib something Andrew said in a recent interview featured in Decibel’s “Kill Screen” column, which also delves deeply into the creation of the video game. When asked what he hoped people would come away with when they play the game and listen to the album, Andrew answered:

I just want people to have fun. Specifically, the kind of ethos of Manipulator is catharsis through chaos. It sounds so cheesy to say out loud, but self-improvement and betterment. Kind of just taking everything that sucks in your life, all the “manipulators” in your life, and beating them over the head with a bone, like the little man in the video game does. Also, while listening to music. This project started as one of those kind of tongue-in-cheek, It would be fun to start a little quarantine grind project, and then it turned into this bigger thing where people are throwing money towards it to get vinyl pressing and stuff.

“Catharsis through chaos”… yes, that makes some sense, because chaos does reign supreme throughout. But Drawing Secret Circles is also thoroughly macabre, and relentlessly frightening, an exorcism through violence.

Manipulator does include episodes of ruthless bludgeoning, hard enough to fracture concrete, but it’s also packed to the brim with freakishly dissonant assaults on the senses and a whole panoply of monstrously mutated vocals and unexpected vocal samples. The guitars writhe and blare, squirm and shriek, mangle and maul, and other sonic effects scream and mysteriously swirl or peal like weird chimes.

Sometimes it feels like we’re bound in the trunk of a car that’s just been loaded into a massive junk-yard metal compacter. At other times, like we’re in hell’s biggest asylum, set on fire, with the raging demons deciding that they’ll spend their last minutes trying to tear each other to pieces. Or like someone slipped us a drug that induces psychotic hallucinations.

It’s quite a diabolically elaborate trip, twisting and turning all the way down, deep into a horrid nightmare realm. And the accompanying visuals are every bit as diabolically creative and unnervingly nightmarish as the noise.



The final production and mastering of Drawing Secret Circles were handled by Adam Tucker of Signaturetone (Ulthar, Thou, Sunless) and the record was completed with art by Andrew Notsch himself.

Drawing Secret Circles will be released on November 3rd. The LP is a single-sided 12″ vinyl in two variants, with 100 copies each – Purple Splatter and Silver Swirl – in conjunction with multiple underground labels: Wise Grinds Records, Here Is Nowhere Records, Dead Red Queen Records, and Psychocontrol Records in Europe.

In addition to shirts, patches, and more, the merch for Drawing Secret Circles also features a DVD version of the video and more. Find pre-orders via the link below — and then check out the track-by-track commentary by Andrew.

Manipulator! the Video Game can be downloaded for free via the Google Play and iOS app stores on November 2 (today!).




**1- Annihilated Prestige – Feat: Derrick Karg

“Quite literally a compilation of lines from a series of attempted extortion emails that Tim and I both received, made for a hilarious and somehow effective set of lyrics, these are the only lyrics on this album that Tim did not write. My friend Derrick from Gordita Beach threw done some lines on this with me.”

**2 – Tangled Insides – Feat: Tim Bradley

“Happy Tim was able to throw some vocals down on this one. Musically this song is an homage to WVRM and generally 2-step hardcore akin to my time in YOUWRETCH.”

**3 – Drawing Secret Circles (Instrumental)

“This song is a direct nod to “Tactical Nuke” by the Acacia Strain. I love the concept of constantly slowing a fun riff down, but in this, as the song slows on guitar, the drums intensify. Tim did some excellent sample work pulling clips from Holy Mountain and really thinking about samples from a musical and constructive perspective here and made this super weird and cool. This is Tim’s favorite Manipulator song.”

**4 – Dumbed Down to Worship

“Everyone pretends to care, almost no one does. And truly, no one does on a consistent basis.”

**5 – Feast Upon It

“Being ok with watching someone you once cared about burn the way they deserve and enjoying the show.” Thanks to Always Sunny for this clip.

**6 – Writhe (Pt. I)

Part 1 of a 5 part title-as-lyrics short form grind song collection spread across the album.

**7 – The Mask You’ve Made

“Quite simply lyrically speaking to how we see everyone presenting something false to the world to protect themselves but often doing more damage in the process. The opposite of an authentic life.”

**8 – Wet Tourniquet (Pt. II)

**9 – Recoiled in Waiting (Instrumental)

**10 – Darkness Derides You

“People who roll around in greed and lust.”

**11 – No This Won’t End (Pt. III)

**12 – Rabbit (First Offering)

“People who chase you around and feed off your energy slowly so you don’t see it happening until it’s too late and they attempt to finish ruining you.”

**13 – Rabbit (Second Offering) – Feat: Juan Vargas

“Finding that very rabbit, and exacting vengeance. – This song features a part from Juan who has helped release a handful of Manipulator albums and also makes some very cool music as The Secret Truth of the Universe.”

**14 – Dripping Tourniquet (Pt. IV)

**15 – Severed (Pt. V)

“Dawn of the Dead clip.”

**16 – Unleaded

“Virtue signalers, caught and continuing to do it anyway.”

**17 – Prestige: Annihilated – With Juan Vargas

Juan came back to provide melodic vocals on this and really bring a sense of mystery to this song and album. This is a throw back to the title track and honestly just cracks me up making something so ‘artsy’ out of a bunch of scam emails.”

**18 – Shit-Sided Die

“People who get hurt and it contorts them into monsters who dole out pain to feed themselves instead of channeling that energy into self help.”

**19 – Vomiting Thoughts

“Watching yourself struggle and being unwilling to fix it.”

**20 – Fear and Mystery Drown – Feat: Lucas Wyssbrod and Friends

“Lyrically speaking this is about ‘Friends’ who lure you to comfort so that they can take from you. In actuality the song includes a guest guitar part from an ACTUAL friend Lucas Wyssbrod from Buenos Aires who I collaborate on Golden Cannibal with (avant-garde dissonant weirdo death grind? and some gang vocals from a handful of others. This song also includes my son’s heartbeat. Yea I’m that guy. Hahahah.”

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