Sunday, 10 February 2019

Don Mandarin - Ghosts of the past and present.

Don Mandarin – Mother of all the distortions. – Cassette – Don Mandarin Tapes – date unknown.

Don Mandarin – Local Sounds Volume 2. – Cassette – Don Mandarin tapes – date unknown.

Who is Don Mandarin? All I know is there’s a Facebook profile of the same name that appeared a few years ago and started adding people who were into Noise and Experimental music. The profile was vague and didn’t tell you anything about them. All that was there was an abundance of unexplained images and Don Mandarin artworks. Videos of odd esoteric sounds with videos started to appear through his feed and on people’s walls - no comments or anything. The artist also sold tapes of their work on eBay and sometimes in box sets through other labels. I suspect the project has some African source roots, there are rumours of works being recorded under seance conditions, there may be some esoteric link to the artists past and present and the dates of when the works were recorded are sketchy. Some of the sources to the works are rumoured to be decades old - that’s all the biographical details that I know about this large body work.

All images supplied by Don Mandarin .
The ‘Mother of all the distortions’ cassette looks very much like a Don Mandarin work or Dona Mangerine as they are known on this recording – a photocopied cover with an image of a young woman and text, little else. The sounds on the first side come across as a warped ritual, where the speed is constantly tweaked to confuse the listener as to what the real source is. It is slightly rhythmic through its warped qualities and the vocal sounds are indecipherable. The sounds are pulled about, stretched and distorted beyond any recognisable coherence. I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to what this is.  It’s alluring in its’ obscurity and mystery. Simple, subtle methods make it something other that can’t be recognised.  

The second side of Mother of all the distortions instead of being more field recordings is ambient sounds that are based on resonating drone patterns.  Side 2 has a semi-religious feel that ties it into the first side. Had the rituals of the first side continued onto the next side, there is a strong chance it could have kicked its own ass. Changing everything shifts things well, keeps it interesting and makes for two very strong, subtle pieces of work.

‘Local Sounds Volume 2’; also listed as Dona Mangerine, is a more ambient sounding release, I am unsure if it is all sourced field recordings of local sounds and made into pieces of work or made using instrumentation, samples or all. Like parts of the other material it uses huge arching drones, rumbling and different drone frequencies. It also has holy chanting tones to it as if ascending to a spiritual realm. Like Mother of all the Distortions, it uses simple juxtapositions to a strong effect, making for an impressive work.

The other side of Local Sounds is a lot darker and murkier. This seems to be the dark in comparison to the first side’s light, occupying a more - Dark Ambient territory. It dies off and returns darker than before with more aggressive sounds as if playfully engaging in a more Death Industrial soundscape; Infected synths anchor the work in the genre as it moves around that.  

These two tapes effectively deliver four separate pieces of work. Each piece is; strong, individual and well delivered. My personal favourite is the first side of Mother… but I am sure individual opinions will vary. But I feel I am no wiser about Don Mandarin than I was before, the chameleon like nature of the tapes throws me out even further. But I’m not complaining, all I know is that I want more.

Choppy Noodles 2019.

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