Bands like Mandrake Handshake are very rare, and by that I mean there’s only one. I could be here all day listing the names of other bands – for instance, there’s the merest whiff of Snapped Ankles in the DNA of their previous single ‘Emonzaemon’, the briefest sense of Jefferson Airplane-by-way-of-Flaming-Lips in enormous banger ‘Gonkulator’ on their first EP – but as intoned at the top of this piece, there’s no-one quite like them and a comparison competition won’t get anyone anywhere.
I say all this because of the word “flowerkraut”, a word I read for the first time in a press release and one I’ve not been able to get out of my head since. This is the name Mandrake Handshake has given their sound, and it’s far more appropriate a descriptive moniker than any red-threaded “sounds-a-bit-like” conspiracy board could ever be. Again, it’s rare for a band to have such a handle on their sound to the point of a) carving out a subgenre I desperately want to hear more of and b) creating a word that’s so much fun to say.
It’s clear these folk mean business, and with ‘Vitamin Sunday’ – a second glimpse at upcoming EP The Triple Point of Water – they’re serving a breezy helping of “flowerkraut” straight from the jar. It’s a low-key affair initially, moving like all six musicians are enjoying each other’s company and a sense of shared purpose on a mid-afternoon stroll, but there’s potential energy in every corner. As ever, the drumming is focused but restive, the bass getting the job done but not without a few little meanders along the way – and a dreamy riff is spun atop it like silver thread from space.
It all fits together under the light of a shimmering rhythm guitar and a relaxed but mournful vocal performance, with the track’s lyrics exploring the slow-motion rending our friendships undergo when we grow up and move to the big city – ‘let’s grab a drink sometime, it’s been ages, I’m next free on the third Friday in February 2024,’ etc. Every so often there’s an explosion of synths and delayed ear candy, blooming and whooshing either side of the sound stage, like bursting cans of iridescent paint – the thousands of airborne droplets mixing themselves into colours you’ve never seen before, or can kind of half-remember from a dream you once had. It’s at these points that their intoxicating vision of “flowerkraut” is realised. Cue a broken-down spoken word section and we’re home dry. Psych is back, baby.
Words: Ed Hambly // Photo: Lola Stephen
‘Vitamin Sunday’ is out now, taken from Mandrake Handshake’s forthcoming EP ‘The Triple Point of Water’, out November 18th via Glasshouse Records. Pre-order the records and stream two songs via Bandcamp.