Sound track: The Event Horizon by Mandara

Mandara

There’s a story behind local rock outfit Mandara. “As a Buddhist in the Tennessee bible belt, [Amanda Mandara Sky] grew up facing much religious persecution. These events soon became the inspiration and foundation for her music,” says the website for the singer and the band that shares her name. (Also, her grandfather was Imre Kovacs, a Hungarian freedom fighter, author and senior editor of Radio Free Europe.)

Each of the three songs on Mandara’s new EP, The Event Horizon, is heavy-hitting and politically charged. Those politics could be personal or national — it’s hard to say, and ultimately it’s up to the listener to decide. “You make these statements / Like you haven’t heard / Actions speak louder than words,” Sky sings on “Empty Hearted.” It’s a big song built on swells of guitar, searing solos and drums that shimmer and seethe. The band — Spencer Cranfill on lead guitar, Chris Brittian on bass and Joe Campbell on drums — create a muscular wall of sound.

“Holding Me Back” enters on a march, the drums kinetic and the bass coiled and low. Instruments layer like a foundation onto which Sky unfurls her vocal. That song, more rhythmic, more syncopated that its prog-rock predecessor, offers the kind of dance beat needed to shake off a week’s worth of frustration and fist-pump into a happy place. “You have your blinders on / You don’t want to see / Is it threatening? / You’re oppressing me,” Sky sings. The words challenge limits both perceived and enforced, but the music has a supple bounce. There’s a smart tempo change, with the drums a tight pummel propelling the song through its paces. Cranfill’s solo bursts out of Sky’s final “Whoa-oh,” a serpentine ribbon of melody.

Final track “Into the Ashes” starts slow with melodic guitar and Sky’s voice. Her vocal is never shy. Instead, the pared-down music allows her to open up, exploring the reaches of her sound. The drums soon add rolls and cymbal flourishes, not picking up the tempo so much as adding to its heart-beat thump and emotional insistence. On bass, Brittian provides a solid floor allowing Cranfill to add texture and sonic color with clear high notes that rise out of crunch and buzz. Sky soars into her upper register just before the song’s end, showcasing her range without overplaying her hand.

It’s a tantalizing collection — just enough to hint at what this band is capable of on a full-length recording or live show.

SHARE
About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.