EP Review: Mandrake Handshake – The Triple Point of Water

Words by Alexandra Dominica

With a name to conjure with and sounds to move and shake to, ‘Triple Point of Water’ is a poignant and turbo charged voyage through the psychedelic rapids. Taken from a Brian Jonestown Massacre track title of the same name, Mandrake Handshake are the only root you’ll need in your witch’s brew. After firmly entrenching themselves as a magical, mystical monolith with their previous debut EP, the Flowerkraut rockers are back delivering a broodier, darker infusion with a decidedly risque aftertaste. 

The EP begins with ‘Emonzaemon’, a track inspired by a ninja who inhabits the world of the anime, ‘Katanagatari’. In their own words “the song is supposed to represent both the Shuriken and the Painted Beauty in equal measure”. They continue “You have the shuriken, which is the riff, and you’ve got the verses, which is the relationship between Emonzaemon and Princess Hitei whom he serves.” The track sounds as if it came from the mid 90s, with distinct lilting Cranberries-esque vocals and guitar riffs that sound as if they bound and undulate around them like a torrent. The band goes on to explain: “the point is that he’s a sword, not human, and that this track is not music, but our sword too.” It’s safe to say with such a strong introduction, the blade is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with.

The next track ‘Vitamin Sunday’ is a welcome deviation from the norm, described as an experiment with a rhythm the band found in the post-punk sound, which the band “reappropriated with jazz chords”. Influenced by Kikagaku Moyo, King Gizzard and the great Yama Warashi, the fragilities and complexities of the young heart seems to be what is taking centre stage here. What feels like a deep dive into spellbinding, celestial idiosyncrasies, the track opens up like an intimate snapshot of a heart-wrenchingly lonely and lovelorn inner monologue. The band explain: “It’s about accepting the alienation of adult life: when your friends grow up, they start doing their own thing, and it doesn’t necessarily line up with where you are and where you’re going. People might leave you, but not from your sense of self. You can lose a friend, but they’re still shaping who you are and how you act, and that’s a nice way of holding onto people.” We are indeed the sum of our influences, which is exactly what the Mandrake Handshake sound is all about – constant, effervescent and uncompromising evolution.

The EP draws to a close with ‘Row’s Tinted Glasses / Diogo Jota’, which is a solar storm of synth modulations and volcanic guitar flecks. Like David Attenborough narrating the world’s wonders in musical form, the track is nothing short of spectacular. Taking pinches of French Psychedelia from the likes of Moodoïd, Clearlight, Turzi, Aquaserge and Melody’s Echo Chamber, the song is a tale of two acts. Described as a culmination of  “messing around with rhythms” and doing “riffs over weird time signatures”, the band find a comfortable medium in a Stereolab swirl and “Vanishing Twin kaleidoscope” that aims to shake you out of that grey mundane stupor into a wild, technicolour dimension.

Oddly but wonderfully political, the track is self described as being a commentary on “virtue signalling and the fractured left”, with a focus on the need for unification and the ardent desire to “kill the fascists”. Act I is the awakening of your consciousness, while Act II is the reality changing, definitive trip that forever leaves its mark. If Mandrake Handshake is the new religion, consider us fully converted.

The Triple Point of Water is due for release on Glasshouse Records 18/11.

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