SPAIN – Mandala Brush

Album: Mandela Brush

Artist: SPAIN

Label: Dangerbird

Release Date: September 28, 2018


Of all the bands to appear the so-called slowcore movement, Spain is now one of the longest-lasting. No surprise, really, as Josh Haden has evolved into a forward-thinking bandleader with a vision that encompasses both the sanctity of songcraft and the openness of improvisation. Mandala Brush, the group’s seventh studio album, bears both of these ideas out.

Song-oriented tracks “Sugarkane” and “You Bring Me Up” continue his trend of adding a rootsy vibe to the band’s languid folk rock, but then genially disrupts the flow with a muscular guitar solo on the former and a gospel coda on the latter. “Holly” sounds like an ancient folk song pulled from the ether. But “Maya in the Summer” and “Tangerine” take a less structured tack, stretching comfortably out, letting the instrumentalists jam and having Haden float over the top with lyrics he might well have made up as he went along. By the end of the record, the appropriately titled “Amorphous” and the epic “God is Love” revel in improvisation and risk, becoming tone poems more than songs. “Folkstone, Kent,” meanwhile, splits the difference, putting jazzy trumpet and a psychedelic atmosphere in the middle of lovelorn lyrics that could have been found on a century-old manuscript.

Haden is, of course, the son of famed jazz bassist Charlie Haden, which has been a notable part of his biography since the band’s inception. But Mandala Brush is the first album on which he really brings his dad’s legacy to bear, and does it without losing the essence of songcraft that’s always made Spain stand out.

DOWNLOAD: “Folkstone, Kent,” “You Bring Me Up,” “Maya in the Summer”


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