Monday, 2 September 2019


Artist: Don Mandarin
Label: Nailed Nazarene Industries
Catalogue no: Unknown


Describing and contextualising Don Mandarin’s work must surely qualify as one of the six impossible things to do before breakfast. I’ve listened to a few of his recordings and I found that trying to pin down such abstruse and slippery abstractions is like attempting to climb a greased pole. It is at once complex, unreal, as malleable as wet clay, as solid as concrete, and yet is as subject to interpretation as anything elusive and ephemeral usually is. In this instance, his first recording issued by Brazil’s Nailed Nazarene Industries label, this is possibly as close to a ‘concept’ album, or at least a thematically linked work, as he’s ever released. (Also, I apologise now for any philosophical musings on my part in the following – combining a Monday morning with a lack of caffeine brings on altered states of consciousness…)

Track 1, ‘MAY THINGS IN THE PAST CEASE TO EXIST’, poses something of a philosophical question – does the past (and by extension, I suppose, the future too) actually exist in any real sense? Once a moment has passed on, does it cease to be, or is it stored in some great universal ‘memory bank’, to be retrieved at some point once the key to open it has been discovered? And if we do, does that mean that any bad or uncomfortable memories can be erased or altered? Judging by the maelstrom of hellish overloaded howl on this opening number, there would be some who would only be too happy to see some aspects of their past selves atomised and pulverised into non-existence. It’s as if some ravenous beast with a black hole for a maw sits ever-ready to ingest the concept of the past (and the collective memories of all) and consign it to oblivion. And, given its 20-minute running time, some have a lot of regretful actions to sort through…

In some respects the future is the most malleable of the time streams, and track 2, ‘MAY THINGS IN THE FUTURE NEVER BE BORN’ is the one thing that all of us have wished for at one time or another. A sustained fuzzed guitar chord roars, building and collapsing, suggesting that the concept of the future is flexible, and only subject to change before it’s actually happened (ie. it’s not predestined or set in stone). At only just under two minutes, there’s a possibility that it’s also suggesting that one quick moment of action is all that’s needed to change outcomes.

Noise ambient is the most appropriate nomenclature for the final offering, ‘MAY THINGS IN THE PRESENT CEASE TO HARM US’, with its washes and planes of sweetened noise and drones that to my ears appear as harbingers of hope and promise, tempered perhaps with the knowledge that we must be ever vigilant. A wordless voice drifts along with the currents which directs it where they will, darting through white clouds which nevertheless roil and churn through endless layers of atmosphere. It is for the most part positive but veined through with a seam of the negative, as if saying that we should grab the good but be acutely aware of the bad that might tag along with it.

An intriguing suite of pieces, tied together through the idea of time and its elusive qualities, which together tell a complex story without layering on the aural convolutions in order to do so. We each relate to time in different ways, and experience it uniquely. I suppose what I am trying to say here is that my reaction to NARRATTI OF TRIBUNE is filtered through my own entanglement with time, and that if you read between the lines there’s much that you can glean from this. My own preference is for works that make me think, not just inwardly but outwardly as well, and of all the Don Mandarin I’ve heard this has been the most thought-provoking by far. As far as I am concerned, that’s what I want from music – and this has it in droves.

Available as a download from Nailed Nazarene Industries’ Bandcamp page:

Psymon Marshall 2019.

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