Mandrake Handshake live in Bristol: a cosmic brew of technicolour sounds

Psychedelic band Mandrake Handshake by Lola Stephen

Rather disappointingly, the cold and drab weather doesn’t seem to be shifting.

But while the seasons haven’t quite changed, The Louisiana in Bristol’s harbourside is feeling somewhat tropical this evening with the presence of Mandrake Handshake and Melotone, two hot tips in the world of UK psychedelia.

With the balmy climes of the venue’s canopy (upstairs room) abuzz with activity, the two acts perform their sunkissed sets to a sold-out crowd – both succeeding in raising spirits dramatically. 

Having been on a live hiatus for a number of months, Melotone kick things off with a set that is evenly divided between older songs and never before played material.

Plenty of people arrive early for their set – a homecoming show of sorts having previously all resided in Bristol and accrued a fanbase within the city.

Frontman Alec Madeley’s sultry tones ring out over subdued rhythms and warm guitar parts as he mixes English lyrics with his mother tongue of Portuguese in an elegant fashion.

Early single ‘Entre Ondas’ is a gorgeous example of this, although their as-yet untitled songs are perhaps an even stronger indication of how they’ve further forged a sound that melds contemporary indie influences with a love of the likes of João Gilberto and Gal Costa in the time since last year’s debut EP And Beyond.

While never upping the tempo too much or playing fast and loose with fancy arrangements, Melotone are still able to set the mood for what’s to come; with many who weren’t previously aware of the foursome walking away as card-carrying fans of the group.

You can joke all you want about it not being hard to fill a venue when all nine members of headliners Mandrake Handshake are present, but their vibrant psych-pop has enough power to pack out the remainder of the venue with ease.

With the full ensemble shaking and gyrating to their hearts’ content, it’s hard for the room not to follow suit, as a sea of bodies fidget along to their cosmic brew of sounds. Their songs are almost played in technicolour, with so many elements to lose yourself in and each appearing to have its own aura and hue.

Having so many members means that there are plenty of diverse influences for the group to draw from, and the result is a chimera of equal parts Gong, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Stereolab – not to mention the additional flavours from across the globe that seep into their songs.

Standout track ‘Emonzaemon’ always goes down a treat as a prime example of them doing this best, while ‘Monolith’ is simultaneously them at their most stoned and most epic.

While there’s a lot to focus on musically, the band aren’t shy when it comes to being visually engaging either; regularly interacting with their crowd and all fashionably dressed in the whimsical costumes of in-demand Bristol designer Sophie ‘rabbit’ Spratley [The Last Dinner Party, The New Eves]. Put simply, there’s plenty to draw the eyes towards. With last EP ‘The Triple Point of Water’ out in 2022 via Glasshouse Records, there’s sure to be new stuff on the way, some of which the audience are privy to tonight, but whenever it lands you can be certain of one thing: it’ll be out there.

featured image: Lola Stephen

Previous Story

The Blinders live in Manchester: a romantic & rabid farewell

Next Story

6 acts to catch at Ritual Union Festival 2024