Mandir - "Out Beyond Ideas"
(Satsang Music 1998, SM02)
From Aural Innovations #7 (July 1999)
From Montana, Mandir (the Sanskrit word for temple) play acoustic world music with a strong jazz influence. The band consists of principal composer Matthew Marsolek on classical and acoustic guitars, and vocals, Beth Youngblood-Petersen on violin, esraj (bowed sitar), and vocals, Lawrence Duncan on soprano sax, bassoon, and vocals, and Michael Marsolek on world percussion, didgeridoo, and vocals. One reviewer in the promo material described a large range of percussion instruments Michael uses, which is where I guess the term world percussion comes from. The various members have worked together previously in projects such as The Marsolek Brothers, The Matthew Marsolek Trio, and a continuing ensemble called Drum Brothers. Out Beyond Ideas is their first release as Mandir.
Mandir's music reminded me a lot of Shadowfax, and Matthew's guitar playing is like Michael Hedges without the pyrotechnics. This is spiritual acoustic music with excellent musicianship and is often quite jazzy. Songs like "Waiting For Govindo" and "Going Quickly Beyond Time" feature beautiful guitar and violin melodies embellished by Duncan's gorgeous horn. We even get a cool doot-in-doot-doot-doo jazzy scat in both tunes, and Matthew's guitar flies in the latter track.
Songs like "Crossing The Divide", "Sojourn", and "Pastoral Dream" really grabbed me in that there are no real words to the vocals. But the harmonies are gorgeous and serve to color the music as if they were additional instruments. "Ajatoma" is similar musically but the lyrics are an ancient Sanskrit prayer. The horn melodies on some of these tracks are really key to Mandir's sound, as is the interplay between the guitar and violin. I also liked the cool jazzy piano solo on "Flying To Varanaji". And the closing track, "Gopala Bolo", ends things on a spiritually uplifting note with its feverish percussion and horn, Eastern influenced violin melodies, and the singing of an Indian holy song. In summary, Mandir should appeal to fans of Windham Hills' and similar labels more adventurous music.
"Out Beyond Ideas" is distributed by Avant Garde.
You can visit Mandir at their web site.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz