Mandarin - "Driftline"
(Two Ohm Hop Records 2000, toh009cd)
From Aural Innovations #14 (January 2001)
This is not too different from the Canadian group The Tea Party, which also means that, at least indirectly, Led Zeppelin is also a significant influence, though generally Mandarin does not boogie like either of those bands, choosing the more melancholic and introspectively-emotive song-writing stance all the way down the line. The vocals lie a bit too heavily on the pop-alternative side for me to enjoy too much, but the music is pleasant enough and very cleanly-produced so as to reveal the very delicate and textured nature of the music. This sounds like a recipe for success but often fails to hit the mark as powerfully as the Tea Party.
One of the stronger tracks is "Ignorance and Forgiveness" with its nice laid-back vocal-and-guitar combo and Zeppish riffing. Following is my favorite tune on the album "Even Ghosts Wear Shadows", with another fine riff/vocal melody and very quiet verses that punctuate some smooth little synth-shots that pop up occasionally. "Siren" begins with more clean electric guitar-picking similar to some of Page's mellower stuff circa Houses of the Holy/Physical Graffiti, and a good tune overall. "Pressing Butterflies" is in a similar mood to the afore-mentioned tracks, a melancholic and introspective strummer about a passed-down butterfly collection, going through several pleasant atmospheric musical stages before segueing into "Scribb", which features some more moody laid-back Pagey picking. "Swivel", like many of the main tunes already mentioned, begins by doing the mellow thing, including some Gilmore-ish lead guitar, then builds into some more intense and fairly-heavy rocking of all main instruments.
That about covers the main vocal pieces. Interspersed with these are several short instrumental interludes. This may not always hit on all cylinders for me, but will surely be well-enjoyed by others who might be more predisposed to this style.
Driftline is distributed by Two Ohm Hop. You can visit their web site.
Contact via snail mail at Two Ohm Hop; PO Box 301629; Austin, TX 78703.
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg