To date, “Footprints From A Tribal Id” has been reviewed three times:
Double E.P. “Hermits Pumpkins And Kings” and “A History For Paupers”
Footprints From A Tribal Id by Ash Mandrake
(Price £5.00 Download from: https://ashmandrake.bandcamp.com)
Imagine prog-rock in the Elizabethan period, with concept lyrics by Shakespeare and the Brothers Grimm, scored by Thomas Tallis with Robin Williamson and Syd Barrett and engineered by fairies. Such a concept may just give you a rough idea of this incredible album. Ash Mandrake doesn’t just sing songs or play music – he creates aural ethereal sculptures with story, poetry and vocals that often defy description – in a good way. Ash has an amazing singing voice of huge range and colour, and is able to harmonize with himself in a haunting and mesmeric way. At times he is reminiscent of Tudor choristers, with shanties and harmonized chants slipping in. Tribal rhythms and dueling drums also appear whilst uilleann pipes make a surreptitious appearance in to the mix. The chaos of his live show is a little bit tamed here, and to my taste this is a plus. Make no mistake, this is a concept album, tracing the turning of the year’s seasons, but its delivery is unique. Listen to this on headphones, in a darkened room and you will be transported to a strange new world where words and music become the landscape and character. Ash Mandrake is possibly not to everyone’s taste – as is true even of legends such as the aforementioned Robin Williamson and Syd Barrett. But Ash is a bard, a court jester, a teller of tales who deserves to be listened to, even if only once, and this album is the perfect calling card. Take a chance, enjoy the mischief and music and spend a short time in the magical world of Ash Mandrake. – PP
Review by Nathan Lewis Williams
(Glastonbury Assembly Rooms – Fabulous Furry Folk Club promoter)
ASH MANDRAKE – Footprints From A Tribal Id review
Ash Mandrake must surely be one of the most gifted and hard working performance artists in Britain today. A multi-instrumentalist of considerable skill and dedication, his live shows have in recent years perfectly bridged the gap between enjoyable madcap entertainment and something far deeper: an uncompromising otherworldliness; his deeply medieval bardic invocations of another time and place mixed with more accessible humour, storytelling and virtuosic renditions of familiar material, accompanied by his custom made guitar-bass machine and subtly layered vocal loops. To see him live is to experience a unique genius at work, his talents solidified by intense focus and practice.
His epically prehistoric album, Footprints From a Tribal Id, is not for the faint-hearted, and the concessions to accessibility woven into his live performances are largely absent here. The story traces the turn of the seasons through a year, invoking some distant Antediluvian past with an almost cinematic vividness. The soundscape is minimal, with few guitars or other complex instruments, until their very welcome appearance in the central poem, Flake, and the later summer section; most of the album is taken up with primal, layered vocal chants and utterances of a sparse, proto-medieaval tonality, interspersed with rhythmical episodes on a cluster of hand-drums, bells and gongs, all complimenting the succinct, exquisite poetry which is mostly spoken. Occasional electro-acoustic minimalism adds to the icy atmosphere of the winter sections, while the skilful
spoken word interludes show Ash’s bardic gravitas at its best, the recurring vocal harmonies alongside providing texture and a tonal context, whilst also allowing the mischievousness of various telluric alter-egos to peek, imp-like, through the sonic weave.
To understand the form scheme and plot, it is well worth visiting Mandrake’s online synopsis – http://ashmandrake.com/creative-content/footprints-from-a-tribal-id/ – which outlines the palindromic sections and the overall seasonal themes of light and shade, death and rebirth. The solemn ending, a funerary farewell to a brother on his way to a home amongst the stars, is moving in a way that belies the strange otherness of the album’s imagined world – the cosmic conclusion reminding us of something deeper than even our apparent humanity.
This is a profound work, and impossible to categorise. One can hope that one day it might be studied alongside the canonical classics of poetical and avant-garde composition. It’s not folk music, pure storytelling or electro-acoustic abstraction, though it contains these elements. Ash Mandrake, in his self-made, near-solipsistic artistry, is like a William Blake of our times, seemingly oblivious to current mores and preoccupations, and his words belong in a pantheon quite beyond time at all. Though unlikely to find much popular favour in the fleeting blips of current trends, this singular album, archetypal and above all timelessly bardic, deserves to endure as much as the mythos it invokes.
Nathan Lewis Williams
REVIEW BY GREENMAN MUSIC
Review by Dave Franklin
Having seen Ash Mandrake play as a solo act a couple of times, I was already familiar with his strange blend of story-telling meets dark age musical experimentations, but even forewarned, I still wasn’t fully prepared for what this album was all about. To start with it’s difficult to know the context of the album, is it a soundtrack, a musical play, a Cecil Sharp House type collection of the ancient roots of music – it hops easily into any of those beds but doesn’t rest peacefully in any. Actually not knowing what it is makes it all the more intriguing.
There are no straight-forward song forms on here, the idea of verses and chorus type structures have been exchanged for spoken word narratives and long stripped down musical work outs, often made up of the most basic percussion, minimal guitars or banks of choral sounds. The overall affect is an odyssey through the ancient traditions and birth places of the music of this planet, the expected Celtic and Germanic threads running alongside rhythmic tribal explorations from Africa and India and evocative banks of vocals that link the earliest religious music of western Europe with campfire chants and the dramatic renditions of the Icelandic saga.
Imagine if kraut-pop sampler and musical magpie, Enigma was not the product of the late 20th century but instead a refugee from the pre-industrial times set on recording the origins of this planets music in the ultimate cross genre, geographically lucid, sound document. If that is a concept that intrigues you, then Footprints from a Tribal Id is exactly what you need.
Testimonial by Frances Powell
(Manager of Franfest 2013)
For those of you who were at Fell Edge for Ash’s 2013 Album launch, and for those of you who have the cd….
Or even for those who wish to have a copy?
Personally, I do not listen much to cds etc, preferring silence, but I have listened to this album a few times. I also feel privileged to have witnessed snippets of the development of this album’s work: characters emerging with the creation of the hats and costumes, stories and Ash’s recording and rehearsing
I love the freshness of the original stories and music, the uniqueness and spontaneity of Ash’s creativity; the effortless reference to nature’s essence and the spirit of mankind: both splittingly cruel and yet also so deeply infinitely kind.
This is rich prose, holding rich insightful universal essences. Ash is a skilful and highly talented artist.
Krystyna has tuned in magically with Ash’s projects and characters; the photography is a reflection of their full connection to each other’s skills and expressive art.
In our world of repetition, media brain-washing, trapping convention.. I find a breath of fresh air with these moments of magic, when pure creation shines new lights.
The reference to Krystyna and photography relates to the exhibition of photography presented at fell Edge 2013. You can view some of those creations below: