Mandy, Indiana – i’ve seen a way
Mandy, Indiana don’t make music you’d generally characterize as conventionally pretty, but it’s easy to come away with a different impression based on the first song on their debut album, i’ve seen a way. “Love Theme (4K VHS)” is deceptively gorgeous, disarmingly free of barbs, poisons or snares. It’s all bright flashes of arpeggiated synthesizers, grand and austere bell tones and techno pulse, gorgeously haunting in its maximalist, cinematic rise. And once the Manchester, UK band opens the trap door and tosses the lid to Pandora’s Box in the garbage, this moment will never be repeated throughout the course of the album.
On i’ve seen a way, Mandy, Indiana are as focused on arming themselves with an arsenal of sound as much as they are with songcraft, shaping and sharpening noise and feedback into illogical, imposing shapes. This is music that overwhelms by design, scrapping the template for a conventional guitar-bass-drums rock approach without necessarily casting aside those instruments; i’ve seen a way features both recognizable guitar and drums (some of which were recorded in a cave), but they’re made to feel at once more alien and antagonistic. Once this music penetrates your senses, it’s hard to concentrate on much else; as singer Valentine Caulfield put it, “It’s not the kind of music that’s necessarily an easy thing to listen to on a Sunday morning.”
Experts at aural bombardment, Mandy, Indiana saturate the senses in exhilarating ways. Where “Love Theme” is elegant and direct in its array of bold colors, early single “Injury Detail” trades that sheen for start-stop industrial-EBM thrum, and “Peach Fuzz” buzzes and whooshes like techno fed back and forth through a transdimensional portal. Even on their subtler and slower build of six-minute standout “2 Stripe,” there’s a kind of cavernous eeriness that they harness, its playful echoes and melodic flourishes erupting into a more palpable feeling of danger. While it’s by no means Mandy, Indiana at their most aggressive or chaotic, their ability to transition so agilely between frontal assault and the mere suggestion of menace is a testament to their unique abilities.
The abrasive sonic palette that Mandy, Indiana employ is a necessary complement to the frustration and pointed social commentary that drives their songs. Caulfield’s lyrics, sung or chanted or shouted in French, are fueled by outrage, exhaustion and anxiety. As “Love Theme” seamlessly bleeds into the harsh, razor’s edge dancefloor minefield of “Drag [Crashed]”, Caulfield chants in opposition to the projectile misogyny of the male gaze, rising up into an agitated shout of “Souris, souris, souris, souris/C’est plus joli une fille qui sourit” (“Smile, smile, smile, smile/It’s prettier a girl who smiles”). Her breathless rap-like sing-speak on “Pinking Shears” takes aim against the capitalist system stacked against us (“we elect bankers/And posh assholes and rentiers/And we are surprised to get fucked“) against a buzzing Atari 2600 bassline. Take your pick for which song is the most righteous expression of anger, though “Peach Fuzz” is perhaps the most plainspoken in its fuck-you, Caulfield warning those who’d participate in the rising tide of fascism, “Ce n’est pas une révolte, c’est une révolution“—this is not a revolt, it’s a revolution.
While much of what Mandy, Indiana creates on i’ve seen a way is cacophonous or noisy, it’s never crude or primitive. Even the 59-second noise rock shriek of “Mosaick” has a certain grace within its peals of feedback and piercing frequencies. The spirit of experimentation is undeniable throughout the 11 songs on i’ve seen a way, but Mandy, Indiana are focused and driven, routing a conceptual primal scream through more complex aesthetic avenues. Satisfying as an unfiltered eruption of pure noise can be, rarely do we get to experience its myriad contours from so many fascinating angles.
Label: Fire Talk
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.