Virgin Passages - Mandalay
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Virgin Passages

Although it's the first CD release from the group Mandalay isn't really the proper debut from the group Virgin Passages, as it's a collection of already released tracks from cassette, CDR, vinyl and compilation appearances. Recorded largely onto a four-track and in some cases live (with some overdubs), it's a release that's completely hit-or-miss, with standout moments offset by nearly downright un-listenable ones.

Touching on folk, but unafraid to shatter their tracks with bursts of feedback and noise, the group definitely has a bit of a psych influence. The first half of the album actually shows the most promise of all, with several tracks that rise beyond the rough recordings into sometimes special places. Opener "Hate Hate Hate" is a perfect example, mingling fragile male/female vocals over minimal percussion and coiled guitar sections that sound like they're on the verge of freaking out (but never quite do).

"Your Home Is Where You're Happy" goes a more straightforward folk route, but with sparse acoustic guitars and more focused vocals, the group shows a penchant for some nice harmonies and hooky melodies. "Memories Are For Kids" is another interesting track, mingling quiet accordion and rattling percussion with quiet horns and guitars while muffled, mumbled multi-part vocals are little more than another melodic layer in the eerie but never dour piece.

Elsewhere, the group seems to flail around quite a bit more, and the super-rough recordings don't do the track any favors. Oftentimes, songs come and go with very little development at all, sounding like sections chopped out of really rough improvisational jams that don't offer up much other than muddy instrumentation and vocals that sound like an afterthought. In places, like the tinny "Headstone Progress," it's easy to hear how the group could carve something redeemable out of the six minute piece, but in their current states most of the tracks only offer up those moments if you're willing to have a lot of patience.

rating: 5.510
Aaron Coleman 2007-02-01 20:59:22