Mandala — Midnight Twilight
(Autumnsongs, 2015, CD)
by Henry Schneider, 2015-07-17:
Multi-instrumentalist Rhys Marsh is quite an active musician. He has popped up quite a bit on various albums over the past 12 months. This time he is joined by Francis Booth on bass and Will Spurling on drums and percussion as Mandala to record and release their debut album, 18 years in the making! Mandala was born in 1997 when the three of them were 17 and in a performing arts college north east of Surrey. They spent considerable time in the studio, recording material that they never released and then split. In 2005, they reunited for a bit and released two EPs. Then Rhys moved to Norway putting the band on hiatus again. Finally last summer Mandala was back in the studio to record all of their best-loved material from both periods of Mandala. The result is Midnight Twilight, an interesting mixture of dark and heavy progressive, Eastern, and acoustic music. Six of the songs (“There’s a Wind That Blows,” “Dreaming,” “Within,” “I Have Fallen,” “Sun,” and “Ghizou”) come from 1997; “The Dark Waltz,” “Into the Night,” and “Fire Is Mine” are from 2005; which leaves the title track as the newest composition. There is a certain resemblance to Porcupine Tree on the more progressive songs like “There’s a Wind That Blows” and “Fire Is Mine.” “I Have Fallen” is a pretty cool upbeat song with jangling West coast guitar work. While Eastern influenced songs like “Midnight Twilight,” “Sun,” “Ghizou,” and “Within” flirt from time to time with raga rock. And tying all the music together is Rhys’ tasteful use of mellotron. Fans of introspective progressive rock steeped in an early 70s music will be very happy with Midnight Twilight.
by Jon Davis, 2015-07-07:
Regardless of how you feel about Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree, the influence of their recordings (starting roughly with Signify, or certainly by the time of In Absentia) has been massive, from the artists Wilson has produced and collaborated with (Opeth, Blackfield, Storm Corrosion) to others who seem to have fallen in love with the sound and mood, with lush atmospheres alternating (and sometimes concurrent) with heavy rock guitar. Think of Kaukasus, Riverside, Gazpacho, (to name a few) and now Mandala. This band actually started in the late 90s, before the modern Porcupine Tree sound was established, but they made no recordings before breaking up in 2006, so we can’t say for sure whether this style was theirs all along or if it’s what they went for after reformation. In any case, it’s where they are with this release, so it’s a safe bet that fans of Wilson’s work would find things to like here. It has the breathy, melodic vocals of Rhys Marsh (also of Kaukasus) and his sometimes subtle, sometimes aggressive guitar playing. The other members are Francis Booth on bass and Will Spurling on drums. The tempos are mostly in the moderate range, nothing too fast, and only rarely do we get and odd meter. In some ways, Mandala is prog only by default, since it features big keyboards with some retro (e.g.- Mellotron) sounds and doesn’t conform to current indie-hipster rock trends. The sound is lush and perfectly played, but the arrangements aren’t overly complex, and the occasional sitar-like sound provides a nod to the band’s name. Regardless of what genre they may or may not fit within, the music is solid and enjoyable, if not ground-breaking.
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more
Rick Wakeman & The English Rock Ensemble - Live in Buenos Aires – One of Rick Wakeman’s several visits to South America gets the DVD treatment with this unique packaging of DVD and separate CD. Damian Wilson is Rick’s newest singer and his lead vocal captures... (2003) » Read more
Bassius-O-Phelius - Them No Good Phelius Boys Is Nothin' But Trouble... Trouble I Tells Ya! – Bassius-O-Phelius is a duo not unlike Birdsongs of the Mesozoic in instrumental quirkiness, with a direct lean toward early-70s free jazz and jazz rock. This is not a player's album, but a record... (1999) » Read more