Mandarin / Estereo
April 3, 2005
Review by Jon Fojtik
It was a well attended Makeout Room during what seemed like a monsoon outside. I expected most of the city to be at home in blankets hiding from the storm. So, I was pleasantly surprised and I was turned on to some new sounds. Mandarin, a Denton, Texas band with influences that delve deep into the dramatic Brit rock canon (bands like Muse UK, Clinic& My Bloody Valentine), came on like a lamb, but left like a lion. Their soft reverbed sounds started slow and built up around intricate melodies and time changes that would impress math geeks. With each song, Mandarin used dynamics as if it were the 5th member of the band. Guitars twinkled and wound around each other only to open up and vibrate the whole room. The lead singer, Jayson Wortham, whispers and howls in that Jeff Buckley way, while the band weaves around him in a pastiche of warm noise. Much like fellow Texans, Explosions from the Sky or American Analog Set, Mandarin settled into patterns of “grooves", if you will and expanded from them until songs became walls of sound that filtered into what seemed like the hum of the light rail coming down the tracks. Now, there are plenty of bands out there that can use dynamics and effects pedals to their advantage, but good songwriting sets apart the truly great bands from the hacks, and Mandarin are tunesmiths that take their craft very seriously. This band is recommended and should be seen whenever they return to San Francisco.
Skip from Estereo followed as a sole representation of the band. "The rest of the band has to work in the morning," he admitted. Hey, he's honest, and it shows in his softly spoken tunesworthy lo-fi indie rock. Lightly strumming his guitar, the songs were complemented by the rain dopping buckets outside. It was like being serenaded by a good friend whose willing to let you inside his neurotic mind. He sang about being afraid that his online persona may sound more exciting than his real existence to the girls he's attracted to. He also did a great cover tune, "Joey," by Concrete Blonde. The lilt of his lazy voice reminded me of Jeff Mangum, or Wayne Coyne. I can't wait to see the whole band now.