You’ve Been Mangoed; With Mango Thomas!

Vast developments in the later days of breakbeat house saw a split in the blossoming rave scene. Techno-heads being directed away from the newfound UK sound found solace in a subgenre dubbed “happy hardcore,” whereas the trialling occurred in the dawn of drum and bass, or “jungle” as it was known at the time. Yet it was still underground and reserved for the party. No one considered a concept album, myself included, until I heard A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology. I bought it on a memory tip-off, I loved the late eighties acid house anthem Voodoo Ray. It was like splinters of drum n bass over an ambient soundscape, and wasn’t for everyone, but while I was still gulping about it, Goldie released Timeless and the rest is history.

Creative outpourings too radical or experimental for the time are commonplace, and perhaps our necessity to pigeonhole excludes Manchester’s Mango Thomas. He emailed with a list of rejections from specific music blogs and radio shows, being if one part did, the rest of his new EP “Goes De,” out today (22nd Nov) didn’t fit their restrictive agenda. There’s part of me which says I don’t blame them, this is a hard pill to swallow, juxtaposed randomly at breakneck speed, it’s a roller-coaster alright; you have no control where it’ll take you.

Mango Thomas throws every conceivable psychedelic genre of yore into a breakcore melting pot, and pours you a jug; if you take a sip you might as well down the whole thing, for it works fast, it’s a trip and you’re in it for the duration. You have to be, if only to wonder what’s coming next. And in that, it has to be one the most interesting things I’ll review here for a while. Yeah, it uses contemporary breakcore, but at times nods back to drum n bass of yore, but it funks too, it rocks, unexpectedly, and if you thought you could be shocked no more, it even mellowly bhangras at the finale, as if Ravi Shankar wandered in.

There are so many elements to contemplate in this hedonistic frenzy of chaos, yet with crashing hi-hats, stripped down rhythms, sonic belters, echoes and reverbs, it primarily relies on dub techniques absorbing industrial metal and hardcore. Imagine an alternative universe where the Mad Professor is remixing Bootsy Collins, but in this realm Bootsy actually fronts a thrash metal band, and Frank Zappa peers over the mixing board putting his tuppence in; something like that, but more bonkers.

Picking it apart, at times you’ll contemplate Mango Thomas’ location and hear shards of the Madchester scene, other points will wobble you over to the Butthole Surfers, for if it is industrial hardcore skater, it’s done tongue-in-cheek. But it doesn’t come over dejected, as such a genre archetypically does, rather showy and egotistical like a funkmaster general. The man himself explains the effect will leave you “mangoed,” I’ve a tendency to agree.

It’s four major tracks with reprises and clippits between, often Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band fashioned, bizarre, amusing or deliberately belligerent to the mainstream, in true counter culture fashion. Do I like it, though, that’s what you want to know, isn’t it? Damn you and your demands, fuck, I don’t know. It’s always going to be something you have to be in the mood for, certainly not drifting Sunday afternoon music to take a snooze to after a roastie. A younger me would lap it up, as it twists so unexpectedly. Any psychedelia gone before doesn’t touch it for cross-genre experimentation, and for that, in my artier moods, I give it full points. A sensible somebody as I’d prefer to strive for might suggest it’s too far out there. But it entertained me for sure, so it has its place.

Can I suggest you throw caution to the wind, listen and see how long you can bear to hold out for? If you like Tim Burton, Zappa or Lee Scratch Perry you’ll be partly prepared. Try though, as the finale is something quite astounding and as an erratic mishmash it mirrors A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology for pushing new boundaries, but it mirrors Sgt Peppers, the Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse and Bitches Brew too.


A Cracked Machine at the Gates of Keras

Don my headphones, chillax with a cider, and prepare my eardrums for a new album from our local purveyors of space-rock goodness; Cracked Machine is a wild ride….

There are few occasions when mellowed music truly suspends me in the moment, when it just exists in the air like oxygen and totally incarcerates and engulfs my psyche. Jah Shaka and ambient house rascals the Orb both achieved this a couple of dusks at Glastonbury, but the same with likewise happenings, I confess I was intoxicated on matter maturity caused me to long leave in my past!

The issue for any reborn psychedelic-head is pondering the notion, will it ever be the same again, will music and art tease my perception to quite the same degree. The sorry answer is no, unless your intransigent mate slips something in your drink. Yet it’s not all despair, with a sound as rich and absorbing as Cracked Machine, it’s doable without drugtaking shenanigans.

They proved this at the most fantastic day in Devizes last year, which was that bit more fantastic, when what was intended to be a bolt-on feature became the highlight of DOCA’s Street Festival. Funded and arranged by Pete and Jacki of Vinyl Realm, the second stage highlighted everything positive about local music; a historic occasion we’ll be harking on for some time yet. I nipped away briefly after Daydream Runaways stole the early part of the day. But where the lively indie-pop newcomers had roused the audience, I returned to witness a hypnotised crowd and a mesmerising ambience distilling the blistering summer air. Smalltalk was numbed, as if the area was suspended in time. A doubletake to confirm we were still perpendicular, sitting in deckchairs or slouching against a wall on the corner of Long Street and St Johns and not slipped through a time vortex to a Hawkwind set at a 1970 free-party love-in. I was beyond mesmerised, but not surprised.

For this is how it was with their impressive 2017 debut album, I, Cosmonaut, the soundscapes just drifted through me, as I causally drafted the review, reminding me of a smoky haze of yore, giggling in a mate’s bedroom, listening to Hawkwind’s Masters of Universe. Youth of my era though, were subjected to electronic transformation in music, which would soon engulf us. Rave culture cut our space-rock honeymoon short, though, Spaceman 3 were a precursor to the ambient house movement of the Orb, Aphex Twin and KLF, others changed their style, like Frome’s Ozric Tentacles merging into Eat Static, and a perpetually changing line-up for Hawkwind appeased the older rock diehards.

I love I, Cosmonaut, it manages to subtly borrow from electronica and trance, only enough to make it contemporary, but keep it from being classed as anything else other than space-rock. I felt their second album, The Call of the Void avoided this slice of Tangerine Dream, and submerged itself totally in the hard rock edge; bloody headbangers! Therefore, it’s a refreshing notion to note newly released Gates of Keras bonds the two albums and sits between them perfectly.

Again, there’s little to scrutinise as it rarely changes, it meanders, trundles me to a world beyond wordplay, as these completely instrumental tracks roll into one another, gorgeously. A Deep Purple styled heavy bass guitar may kick it off, yet the opening track Cold Iron Light takes me to the flipside of Floyd’s Meddle, with seven and half minutes of crashing drums and rolling guitar riffs. Temple of Zaum continues on theme, Ozrics-inspired funkier bassline, and we’re off on the drifting journey, splicing subtle influences. The Woods Demon, for example, stands out for particularly smooth almost Latino guitar riff, making it my personal fave. Yet Move 37 is heavier, upbeat, like the second album. Low Winter Sun is sublime blues-inspired, imagine Led Zeppelin created Satisfaction rather than the Stones, if you will.

Recorded back in November, this is eight lengthy soundscapes of pure bliss, and will guarantee you a safe trip. A signature album for a lonely lockdown of dark, yet emersed in a time of Tolkien-esque vibes and mandelbrot set fractal posters. If this was released in the mid-seventies-to early-eighties every spotty teenager would be inking their army surplus school bag with a biro-version of Cracked Machine’s logo. As it is, age taking its toll and all, I have no idea if this still happens, but doubt it. None of that matters, here is a matured era of the genre, only with a glimpse of how it once was. Nicely done.