Review: Mandala, Midnight Twilight (2015).
I’ve been following the work of Rhys Marsh for several years, but not to the extent I should have. Even a cursory examination of his website and the realization of all he’s done in the music world over the past is somewhat overwhelming. He’s a singer, a songwriter, a musician, and a producer. I’m sure he’s a million other things as well, but this is what he has listed as his main occupations and pre-occupations. He also looks like he could easily grace the cover of GQ or Esquire. I would also add: he’s a perfectionist, a quality common in the progressive music world but all-too often absent in the vast majority of earth’s citizens.
Marsh has his own solo career as well has being a member (I presume the lead member) of Mandala and Kaukasus.
As it turns out, his most recent album, made with his band Mandala, originated eighteen years ago. And, some of the songs on the album still seem haunted by the grunge of that decade. Indeed, there’s a strong Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Screaming Trees aura that lingers over about half of the album.
This isn’t a bad thing. Quite the opposite. It really adds texture to the album.
That Marsh is immensely talented is written into every single word and note of these various and varied albums, but they are especially evident on on Mandala’s Midnight Twilight. His ability to make diverse things while also maintaining his own singular integrity and injecting his unique spirit into each project reminds me of the work of Arjen Lucassen, Steven Wilson, and Sam Healy. Not that he sounds like any of them, but he shares that perfectionist, OCD, creative streak that so predominates some of our best musicians in the rock world.
As readers of Progarchy know, I’m no musician. Back when complex stereo systems were the norm, I joked that the instrument I knew how to play was the stereo receiver. The on/off switch. I’m actually trying to teach myself piano, but my wife tells me I sound more like a percussionist when playing than a pianist. Regardless. . . I know what I like, and I know what I love. I am usually most taken with the texture of the music, the flow of the album, the beauty of its resolutions, and the power of the lyrics.
When it comes to the four things I most admire in music, Mandala is aces. Totally and happily aces. No song on Midnight Twilight is like any other, and, yet, rather than feeling like a mix of singles, Midnight Twilight holds together perfectly. The flow is excellent. From the already mentioned grunge to the experimental time signatures of King Crimson to the intensity of Rush, Midnight Twilight is a thing of wonder.
And, it’s a must own for any lover of prog or rock.
Just be forewarned. Once you start following Marsh’s career, you won’t stop. I guarantee that listening to Midnight Twilight will make you grab the credit card for more. Just remember: your spouse won’t see the statement for at least a month. Time heals all wounds.