From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)
Mandra Gora Lightshow Society - "Beyond The Mushroam Gate"
(Liquid Sound Records 2000, LSR 003)
Originally released in 1999 (reviewed by Scott Heller in AI #8), Mandra Gora Lightshow Society's Beyond The Mushroam Gate has been reissued by the U.S. based Liquid Sound label with 20 minutes of bonus material including a 15 jam with Nik Turner at the 12th German Hawkwind meeting and a cover of Pink Floyd's "Point Me At The Sky". For the uninitiated, the band play a cosmic blend of Doors styled 60's psychedelia and mind melting space rock. On this album the band consists of Anders Becker on vocals, organs, and Wurlitzer E-Piano, Willem Kucharzik on vocals and guitars, Martin König on drums and percussion, Willi Dammeier on effects, plus guests on sax and vocals (see interview below for lineup change info).
The album opens with the fantastic "I Don't Want To Rewind The Time". An intro of saxophone and trippy guitars meander about and build tension until nearly the 4 minute mark when the full band launches into song. The organ lays down a great Ray Manzarek styled groove, the guitars are searing, and all of this occurs within a rumbling spaced out stew of looped and bubbling paisley sounds. Definitely one of the best cosmic psychedelic songs I've heard in a long time. The great sounds of the 60's are here but Mandragora Lightshow Society inject a much more spaced element to the music than most of their influences.
"Der Hieronimus Bosch Trip" and "Magic Rushroom" are similar extended instrumental tracks. "Der Hieronimus Bosch Trip" begins with an intro of metallic chords, freaky looped guitar patterns, and totally spaced out synths. The drums soon start to bash and the organ kicks in with screaming extended notes. This is much darker then most of the other tracks on the album. It's almost orchestral in it's continual buildup and that kept me on the edge of my seat waiting for the band to launch into something. This is a track that just continually "happens" rather than attempting to travel anywhere in particular. Intense... freaky... love it. "Magic Rushroom" has a similar extended buildup. The sound of cars zooming by sets the theme of traveling down a highway. The cars are in a rush, while the music is trippy, floating, and heavily spaced. There's a bit of a "song" injected at one point, sort of an old Barrett-era Pink Floyd feel, but this is brief and for the most part the tune just trips down the cosmic highway and the listener can simply enjoy the ride and the view. "Floating At The Gates Of Dawn" is a nice flowing 15-minute psychedelic jam embellished by Nik Turner's flute. It must have sounded great at the festival where this was recorded.
Among the shorter psychedelic songs is "Unknown Gem", which has a 60's flower power pop feel, but all the crazed sounds are ever-present making this a totally spaced affair. Rising and falling waves of phased space flood up and down, left and right, and pulsate in the center of the brain. "Perpetuum Morality" is similar with great trippy guitar licks. "The Graduation" has a driving drumbeat I liked, a crowd of voice samples, and what I'd swear is a ping-pong ball popping back and forth. "A Common Race" is the track that most reminded me of a Doors styled jam, but the guitars are far more cosmic.
In summary... HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION! Mandra Gora Lightshow Society excel at both well written pop-psychedelia and mind blowing cosmic instrumental work. The production and mix is right on the mark, making for a headphones experience that will keep you coming back for more. Wanting to know more about these tripsters we conducted the following interview via cyberspace:
AI: Tell me about the band's history.
Willem: Phuuuhh, that's a long story of crash landed UFOs on earth and mushroom tea partys. It was told so many times, but it's wrong to say that it all began in Roswell. For example they lost me on this stupid little planet as they picked up Elvis and now I'm here. You are an Alien like me so you know that it is possible to attract aliens with psychedelic music so I do it to find my cosmic brothers and sisters, and so I found Anders the organ player, Timo the singer, our new drummer Gitte, The lightshow-stylist Cactus Cooper and our sound engineers Willy and Greccore.
Timo: I joined the band about two years ago when they drew me out of the gutter and invited me to a cup of tea... and we played some records... and made some music...
AI: Tell me about your influences. I hear a great combination of 1960's Door-styled psychedelia, acid rock, and cosmic space rock.
Willem: There are so much influences for me. Last but not least it is the sound of the cosmic chaos that totally tore off my head. My first record was "Relics" from Pink Floyd, but I like also very much The Red Crayola's Parable Of Arable Land, The High In The Mid Sixties-Garage-Style, Strawberry Alarmclock, The C.A. Quintett, a lot of the Neo Psychedelic Bands like Cynics, Miracle Workers, Fuzztones. I also listen to old Country & Rock 'n' Roll like Curtis Gordon, Waylon Jennings or the stuff from Chess Records, and in the last days I still to listen to Spirit Caravan. It all could be an influence to me like the sound of the nature, the wind, the sea, the woods and the sick sound of civilization like war and the crying of the slaves who work for the industry just to buy coca cola or to rent a cheap flat. Man, everything influenced me, it's the sound of the cosmic chaos that makes me do the things I do.
Timo: If you wanna hear which crap of music I listen, it's hard to say.... constantly changes. But all time favorites are *The Smiths*... Morrissey said it all. Oh, and than also a lot of electronic stuff... goa, trance, techno... and experimental stuff... (favorite song at the moment: Johannes Heil - die eigene achse - check it out... this one really blows your mind)... and Gershwin, there's nothing like Gershwin... Dean Martin, Carpenters... uh, Belle and Sebastian saved lst year... and check out the Pat Metheny live album. Yesterday on the train I listened to Ray Charles and the sun was shining and spring was creeping in and that was a really magical moment... don't know... just drop by for a cup of tea and I'll play some records.
AI: Beyond The Mushroam Gate, your third release, is now re- issued on the US Liquid Sound label. Any chance of your first two albums seeing similar reissues in the US?
Willem: Sure, if someone will do it, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Timo: I heard there's a lot of tea drinking and record playing going on in the US these days.
AI: Does the "Lightshow" part of your name indicate that an extensive lightshow is part of the Mandragora Lightshow Society live experience?
Willem: Yes, we are working with the Lightshow as an optical instrument to create a whole psychedelic environment. For example at the moment we just create our own incense to fulfill it. Anyway, The Lightshow is drawing warping, liquid bubbles in the back, that looks like cosmic Embryos having sex. We show Films and Pictures and blow your Eyes with Op Art Effects. Sometimes our Lightshow Stylist leaves his place behind the projectors and also plays congas to some songs while the Lightshow is still bubbling for his own. Last but not least we supported the song Psychedelic Shiva (sometimes a more then 15 minute Trip) with so much Fog that you can't see your neighbor in the venue and then we smashed the audience with a permanent strobo-flash-light till everybody is freaking out.
Timo: I noticed that sometimes the light show looks just like milk being poured into a cup of tea.
AI: The liner notes to Beyond The Mushroam Gate go into great detail about hallucinogenic mushrooms. Does this experience play an important role in your music?
Willem: Yeah, for me it's a big influence like you can read into the booklet and my teacher, or better the one who turned me on was Dr. Christian Rätsch, who was also writing the Introduction to this CD. Christian Rätsch is a guy who wrote more then 100 Books about psychoactiv plants, psychedelic trips, witchcraft, shamanism and stuff. He was a very close friend of Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna and is still doing a lot with Dr. Albert Hofmann.
Timo: Does anyone want a cup of tea? I got green gun powder from china and lapacho with cerry's. Oh and this one is nice, it's called *white magician*, it's from South Africa and... hey... no, no... don't sniff it up your nose... your supposed to drink it... ah, well... nevermind since you seem to be enjoying yourself.
AI: Tell me about the Swamp Room Happening shows. Are these annual/periodic festivals? They seem to have a fantastic lineup of bands.
Willem: It's the festival of my label, we do it every year, this time at the 02.-03.06.2001 in Hannover at the venue "Bei Chez Heinz" (www.BeiChezHeinz.de) But Man, what should I tell you? Your Cosmic Reporter Scott Heller was writing an excellent Review of the last Happening for Aural Innovations. Last but not least you can say it is Europe's biggest Underground Festival for Psychedelia & Garage Music. This Time there will play:
MANDRA GORA LIGHTSHOW SOCIETY & Matmosphere (Germany / UK, First Matmosphere plays some acoustic stuff, then we come and blow it a little bit up and at the end we blow everybodys mind).
CAMPER VAN CHADBOURNE (USA, ex Camper Van Beethoven meets the Shockabilly Mastermind Dr. Eugene Chadbourne).
THE ROYAL BEAT CONSPIRACY (Sweden, one of the best live acts you can get. They got the sex of the Rolling Stones, the dirt of The Pretty Things and the Glam of David Bowie's Major Tom).
Dr. EXPLOSION (Spains best Neo-Sixties Garage Beat & Punk Band, the name said it all).
ON TRIAL (DK, our scandinavien stonerdelic brothers). THE HEADS (UK, hopefully they will come. I ask them, one of the best Stonerdelic bands)
LIQUID ZOO (Space & Acidrock)
THE VIBRAVOID (Great Floydish influenced Psychedelia from the Kraftwerk Hometown Düsseldorf)
OUR FLYING SAUCER (Instrumental band playing a lot of Surf and Cover of Sun Ra in this Style with 3 Guitars and a beatbox)
THE SPLASHDOWNS (Instrumental Space-Rock 'n' Roll that is dedicated to the Apollo Mission and that's the reason why this Band is supported by the NASA (No Joke). They sound like Link Wray, The Ventures and Astronauts)
NIXON NOW (Motor-City-Garage-Punk)
AIR 6 & ELVIS PUMMEL (Garage Trash & Hillbilly-Psychosis)
NOETICS (New Band from Hannover's Psychedelic Underground. Acid-Space-Jazz like a cosmic supernova of Gong and Ozric Tentacles)
REDONDO BEAT (ex Mucus 2, cool Sixties Punk & Soul Trash)
THE MOBYLETTES (it's like going back to the legendary Beatclub, with charmed female Vocals)
And I also asked SPIRIT CARAVAN to come, but don't got a reply yet.
We will also do a low price compilation again, including all the bands who played on the festival. This time it will be a MC and the price will be only 8,-DM ($4). There will exist free camping places, chill out areas with cult movies and the shows are running through the whole night. It starts every night at 9 o'clock in the evening and end at the gate of dawn at 5 o'clock in the morning and the live music is running non stop. The bands come on stage plug & play. The best is, the entry is also very small only 12,- DM ($6) per day. Nobody is earning money at this happening. We just do it to keep the freak flag flying.
Timo: This year I will have my own tea-tent and everything. It will be wonderful. People will drop by and we will share a decent cup of tea and I'll play some records.
AI: The Swamp Room festival(s) and the Swamp Room label indicate you are aggressive "movers" in promoting psychedelic music in Germany. Do you get to play live much?
Willem: As much as it is possible. Book your own MANDRA GORA LIGHTSHOW SOCIETY Show: email@example.com.
Timo: And when we are not playing... I'm always busy organizing psychedelic tea partys where you can drop by, have a cup of tea, and maybe play some records and stuff.
AI: Tell me about the Swamp Room label. I'm familiar with the Swamp Room Happening and Eugene Chadbourne LP's I reviewed. Is it a vinyl-only label? What else have you released? Was it started as a way to release your own music?
Willem: Yes it's a vinyl only label and I'm publishing in the most cases strictly limited records. I released the first 2 Albums of MANDRA GORA LIGHTSHOW SOCIETY, a record of THE JACOBITES featuring: NIKKI SUDDEN & DAVE KUSWORTH, 2 Albums by Dr. EUGENE CHADBOURNE, LIQUID ZOO, MINDKIOSK and a lot of compilations like A SWAMP ROOM HAPPENING, MUSHROOM MUSIC MONOLITHS THE GATHERING OF THE PSYCHES, THE STORY OF TODAYS HALLUCINATION GENERATION, and I started THE SWAMP ROOM SINGLE CLUB. It's an event that takes place every 2 months at BEI CHEZ HEINZ in Hannover, there are playing 2 Bands and I released an exclusive split single featuring the both stars of this night. The Single is given away for free to the followers of this event and the special deal is that the bands on this single got the same first letter, so that you got after a while a whole Swamp Room ABC. I start with M like MANDRA GORA LIGHTSHOW SOCIETY and MIND KIOSK. At the 23.03.2001 is coming V like VELVETONE & VAMPYRE STATE BUILDING (Rock 'n' Roll). Then comes C at the 17.05.2001 like COLOURHAZE & COLORCACAS (Stonerrock). And there are still plans for L like Liquid Visions and Liquid Zoo and O like On Trial & Our Flying Saucer and on, and on, and on...
Upcoming Releases will be a strictly limited Vinyl Single of 250 Copies featuring: the original one and only Mrs WANDA JACKSON & VELVETONE especially for the VIVA LAS VEGAS Rockabilly Meeting in the USA that is headlined this year by WANDA JACKSON and the next Release will be a 10" of MANDRA GORA LIGHTSHOW SOCIETY, the new album by CAMPER VAN CHADBOURNE, and A SWAMP ROOM HAPPENING Compilation of course. For the year there are also plans for a Vinyl LP with VIBRAVOID and there are very secret plans from me and my mate Schilling, who is running the Loudsprecher Label. All I will tell you at the moment is that we try to get the rights for an unreleased album of one of the biggest psychedelic-glam-rock Bands of the 80s. Last but not least I'm the European homebase for the US Labels Brainticket and Magnetic.
Timo: Personally, I would much more prefer Willem to run a tea distribution or something.
AI: What was the show where Nik Turner sat in with you (was this last year's Hawkan festival?). Is the track all improvised? It's a nice flowing jam track.
Willem: I guess it was the Hawkfan meeting in 1999. It was a strange show, cuz we entered the stage at 3' o clock in the morning and played till the gate of dawn. That's the reason why you will hear the chirping birds on the recording and if you listen really deep to the end of the song you can hear some followers of the festival who are making love in the fields beside the stage.
Timo: After the show I spent a few hours with Nik drinking tea, playing records and rambling about life. It was really nice.
AI: Any other musical projects the band members are involved in we should know about?
Willem: David Gilmour is asking me a lot of times to do a record with him or to play in front of the pyramids at New Years Eve and I would love to do it, but I got no time. I only write songs for Mandra Gora Lightshow Society.
Timo: Mmmhm... I seem to be out of tea... I'll just be 'round the corner to get some.
AI: Any news or future events to share?
Willem: We got every day 10000 ideas. Look at www.mandra-gora.de.
Timo: Has anyone seen my wallet?
Beyond The Mushroam Gate is distributed in the U.S. by Liquid Sound Records. You can visit their web site.
Contact via snail mail c/o Liquid Sounds Records; PO Box 122048; Arlington, TX 76012.
You can visit Mandra Gora Lightshow Society at their web site.
Hear song samples at their Mp3.com web site.
You can also visit the Swamp Room Records web site.