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The best kept secret in music


"Mandrake Prelude"

Recorded and Produced by Mandrake

From Oakland comes Mandrake, a quartet featuring Liam Carey, Matt Herz, Jason Walker, and Owen Williams. The four somehow manage to sneak in accordion, banjo, and trumpet alongside more commonly utilized instruments such as double bass, drums, and guitar on their debut EP, Prelude. This is an important detail, as it highlights the eclectic sound found throughout the album, and the depth of the sepia-tinged folk music created by the band. Lyrical nuggets also abound on Prelude: “I wake up in the morning/ and it never, ever seems/ that I’m able to finish my dreams.” The music itself, including Carey’s vocals, seems to belong to a time when, according to Greil Marcus’ mythologies and DA Pennebaker’s documentaries of the ‘60s and ‘70s, music was self-contained and insightful, and bands were solidified units that lived and breathed as one. Mandrake belongs to that era; it’s easy to imagine finding Prelude in a dusty record bin next to some Nick Drake and Cat Stevens.

Mandrake also fits in with folk-pop contemporaries such as older Bright Eyes, Mull Historical Society, and Gravenhurst. The music is mournful and longing, while maintaining a pop sensibility that makes it possible to listen to Prelude on a sunny day and not just rainy ones, unlike Elliott Smith or Cat Power. On the instrumental “Techno,” the band shows a talent that wouldn’t be out of place scoring independent films or period pieces. It’s clear from the title of the song that the boys have a sense of humor. Then again, retro is all the rage and who knows - maybe some club out there is going to start spinning folk on weeknights. Prelude is a strong release, and quite impressive given the amount of instrumental and technical prowess required of the instruments dotting the songs. (self-released)

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-Beren Huett
- West Cost Performer Review

"Mandrake Performing at Noise Pop 2006"

Mandrake is an Oakland-based quartet that plays a unique brand of acoustic-based, proggy indie-rock that falls somewhere between early Tarentel, Can, and now defunct local act Delta Song. Set to release its first album on E14 Records, the band would fit nicely on a bill with 6 Organs Of Admittance or other freaky folk acts. Liam Carey's move through simple acoustic arrangements into more progressive pieces, with nylon string classical guitar leading the way. -Matthew Johns - Noise Pop 2006 Catalog

"InStudio: Mandrake"

Artist: Mandrake

Genre: folk-rock

If one were to judge by the production value of Oakland four-piece Mandrake's music alone, the phrase "sepia-tinged folk music" - used in a review of their 2005 album, Prelude, and quoted on the KDVS 90.3 FM website - would indeed be very appropriate for the band.

But in regard to the band's style, things are a bit more problematic than that.

The group, which will visit KDVS' Live In Studio A tonight at 11:30 and consists of Liam Carey, Matt Herz, Jason Walker and Owen Williams, splits its time between instrumental pieces and songs with vocals. The vocals are mixed low enough in the tracks from Prelude, some of which are available via the band's website and its page, to approximate the voice-carried-on-the-wind effect of Nick Drake's singing.

It is in the instrumental tracks, however, that the band displays a musical heritage far closer to the Chicago school of "post-rock" neoprog - especially that of late-period Don Caballero - than to the Incredible String Band.

While the instruments used by Mandrake may be acoustic and the drumming less technical and propulsive than those of the bands listed above, the precise frenetic energy and calculated crescendos characteristic of this movement lay just beneath the warm, deliberate haze of the band's recordings.

It should be interesting to see, then, how the band will come across without this multitrack mediation.

A track titled "Mouse" provides us a hint of what to expect on LISA. The strangely technical drumming and conspicuously bright vocals spin out a sound that suggests the Black Heart Procession sharing a bill with Garrett Pierce at Delta of Venus.

It is important to note here that, despite our attempt to place Mandrake within a web of references, it is not so much a math-rock band parading as postmodern folk singers as they are an unexpectedly compelling and a steadfastly unclassifiable listen.

- California Aggie


- EP: Prelude (2005)
- new album (untitled) coming out in Spring 2007


Feeling a bit camera shy


Mandrake formed in Colorado in 2003 when frontman Liam Carey quit his PhD mathematics program to join the other gentlemen fresh out of music school to move to Oakland, California. Since adding a drummer in 2004, we've been sharing the stage with some of the best acts we know including Two Gallants, Rogue Wave, Faun Fables, and Heavenly States at the 2006 Noise Pop Festival. We live together in a warehouse now in east oakland and do what we can so we can do what we want to do - play music.