Mandala - "Gurning the Midnight Oil" (Mandragora Music MBC001)

From Aural Innovations #6 (April 1999)

This is a side project of Simon Williams and Al Jenkins of Mandragora with friends Simon Cowburn and Mick Reed. In someways it does have the Mandragora feel to it but this is a psychedelic dance-trance-techno thing. The synthesizer sound is very rich and dominates the sound much more than the bass thump that accompanies some, but not all the tracks.

Gurning the Midnight Oil starts things off and reminds me of some of the better Eat Static stuff, using a sampled voice and driving synth line. Grow It Everywhere starts with a very spacey intro with a voice talking about Grow it Everywhere and has samples about marijuana. The bass line is not driven by a machine and Al lays down a thick bottom end. The drums sound real at times but tinny and canned at others. Real great song! Three little men in a flying saucer starts with a small child singing a rhyming poem and then the bass line slowly moves in as the theramin sound that opened the tune fades. Very cool! Now the dub keyboard line comes in while the driving synth rhythm continues. I guess this is a song that people say you chill out to...

Loose in the Temple starts off with some gurgling bubbly noises and bird sounds as a conversation can barely be heard, but is slowly drowned out as the synths layer in louder and louder and then the techno line starts as a faint chant can be heard. While Smart System has a more laid back trancy feel to it and 35 White Mustang moves forward with an almost talking synth type sound and some very spacey sounds. Simple Life is their pop techno dance hit style song with Nikki Catterall on vocals. This has a pretty dreamy feeling to it with cool keyboard sounds! Summer of Dub finishes off the 60 minutes of music with a long spacey dub piece.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable CD and varies in many ways from the standard techno trance styles, and brings in many new ideas to those who are trying to see what this whole techno psychedelic trance thing is all about.

For more information, you can email Mandala at

Reviewed by Scott Heller

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