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(52:12, Autumnsongs Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. There's a Wind That Blows 6:44 2. The Dark Waltz 4:59 3. Into the Night 3:02 4. Midnight Twilight 2:26 5. Sun 4:44 6. I Have Fallen 4:08 7. Dreaming 6:55 8. Ghizou 7:01 9. Within 4:41 10. Fire Is Mine 5:52 LINEUP: Rhys Marsh – vocals; guitars, sitar, rebab, el. piano, Mellotron Will Spurling – drums, tabla Francis Booth – bass
Prolusion. The international, UK-based, trio MANDALA was formed way back in 1997 and has been an on and off project for many years. They released some music leading up to 2005, including the 10-track CD "Before Memory", which is still commercially available, but it would appear that the band decided to reinvent themselves when they got back together again in 2014, and when "Midnight Twilight" was released through Autumnsongs Records in 2015, it has commonly been described as the band’s debut album.
Analysis. Mandala is, at the core, a power trio. A bassist, drummer and guitarist, creating music with a solid foundation in the days of yore, creating vibrant music that mainly revolves around their main instruments. Which doesn't reveal all that much, I guess, but at least as I experience the band, they operate out from a foundation based on bluesy hard rock. I should stress that this is an arguably underlying foundation though, and that the threesome generally opt to add a lot of additional elements to it. On the one hand, we have vibrant creations that add a distinct psychedelic presence to this foundation, at times with a further reference back to folk music, mainly by way of guitar details, but fairly commonly with some additional keyboard or Mellotron added to the proceedings as the composition develops. Opening track There's a Wind That Blows is as good an example of that as anything else. The majority of the compositions explore this blend of blues-based hard rock and psychedelic rock, in straightforward as well as more elaborate compositions, quite a few of them if not within the realm of progressive rock then at least residing on the borders. I Have Fallen, with its playful use of acoustic guitar and firm, plucked electric guitar details, comes closer to the type of music described as Americana however, and the gentle evening mood song Dreaming also has some touches of that due to the use of lap steel, albeit now paired off with an increasingly dominant string arrangement and rhythms with a slight jazz-tinged touch to them. As such one might describe this song as a companion piece to the earlier album track The Dark Waltz that also features some of the same elements, as well as concluding piece Fire Is Mine, which hones in more on the use of strings as an atmospheric and dramatic effect. The psychedelic aspects of the band are most thoroughly explored on the mesmerizing title track Midnight Twilight however: a rich, fluctuating drone using tones and timbres that brings forth associations to the Middle East, and then segues into the following track Sun that employs effects of a similar nature to add exotic vibes to this more vibrant affair that, again, has a stylistic foundation in a more typical power trio manner, expanded in a similar manner as the greater majority of material on the album.
Conclusion. Mandala, as it comes across on this album, appears to be a band that takes great pleasure in exploring and expanding the boundaries of the typical power trio format. Touches of psychedelic rock, details from both jazz and world music, and the occasional Americana touch all meet up in compositions ranging from straightforward classic rock to accessible vintage progressive rock, performed by accomplished musicians, who take all of this in perfect stride. Well executed and produced too. A band and an album that merit a check by those just as fond of classic power trio bands as they are of vintage progressive hard rock.
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