M.O.S - Mansion of Snakes (Album Review)
Updated: Oct 29, 2019
1 November 2019
Album Rating 4 / 5
Live Potential 4.5 / 5
Solo Performances 4 / 5
Diversity in Songs 3.5 / 5
Favourite Songs Komorebi, Questions Left Unanswered, Turn Your Back Away, Me and Them
The Earth shall shake and the serpents will dance, for Mansion of Snakes debut album is here! The afrobeat 10-piece will release M.O.S through Hyde Park Book Club Records on November 1st. Their wonderful combination of devil funk and cosmic jazz has led to the creation of a sophisticated LP that takes you from a relaxing sway to stomping dancefloor hits via enticing afrobeat grooves.
Their previous releases includes their eponymous EP from March 2017 and a 7" single 'Mating Season' released on Leeds label Come Play With Me back in April 2018, but this debut album cements their position in the Leeds scene as an authentic group who constantly invent new and irresistible tracks. Their single 'Concrete Money' gave the perfect example of their infectious deep-jazz sound infused with angular funk that draws from their influences such as Talking Heads, ESG, Fela Kuti and Funkadelic. Singer and percussionist Vanessa Rani's impassioned social commentary compliments both the single and the rest of the album, as 'Concrete Money' has a natural pacey, energetic rhythm which amplifies Rani's passionate words.
'Me and Them' is introduced through the swirling horns and flute interlude of 'Wild Honey' as the rhodes keys plays a delightful but simple riff that the horns bounce on top of. This slower jam is enhanced by an equally divine trumpet solo before the song picks up the tempo into a bouncing groove that turns into an almost shuffle-like boogie. One of the standout melodies from the LP comes from the layered horns phrases in 'Questions Left Unanswered' which is accompanied by some clever guitar riffs, and a guitar solo that wobbles, teeters and surges out emphatically.
Throughout M.O.S Matthew Aplin's keys are used really effectively and 'Turn Your Back Away' highlights their simplicity with stabs at the start of the song, switching to a psychedelic vibe during his solo before producing an ingenious shimmering effect in the outro. The lyrics of 'Gotta Give Love, Gotta Have Love' also replicates the anthemic style of singing evident in 'Concrete Money' by Rani. 'Komorebi' ends the album beautifully in a spiritual jazz style, reminiscent of Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders as the gentle percussion and drums slowly push the reverby guitar and fluttering saxophones, trumpet and flute. The gradually crescendoing low-end trembling from the keys shudders as the riff from the horns section sumptuously ends the album in a fashion that helps you compose yourself from the more lively afrobeat numbers.
Mansion of Snakes have spent the last two summers doing the festival circuit at Shambala, Green Man, Kendal Calling, Beatherder, Solfest and Smugglers Festival amongst touring around venues away from home in Bristol, Sheffield and London, yet outside of this their fanbase still seems to be the strongest at home in Leeds. Even with their music being played on BBC 6 Music, Worldwide FM and BBC Introducing, it seems a disappointment there is not as much effort from the national scene to include Mansion of Snakes into the roster of established afrobeat acts gaining popularity in the jazz world such as London Afrobeat Collective and KOKOROKO. A lot of the tunes on this album have razor-sharp riffs that will and always have induced sweaty gig-goers to a night of pure joy, yet like many other Leeds-based artists they seem to have fallen victim of not being inside the London media and music industry bubble. Fear not though, because Leeds residents are lucky enough to ve able to see them live again very soon at their album launch party on 1st November, joined by Leeds jazz quintet Jasmine and the Soul Rebels DJs on the bill as they perform at Brudenell Social Club (link below).
M.O.S is an exciting debut album that explores afrobeat, funk and jazz through a sensational set of powerful tracks that cover the spectrum of bopping bangers to ethereal chillout tunes.
Mansion Of Snakes (LP Launch) / Jasmine / Soul Rebels DJs on Friday 1st November:
You can follow Mansion of Snakes here:
Buy the album on vinyl on the link below, or directly if you go to Hyde Park Book Club:
Mansion of Snakes are: Vanessa Rani - vocals and percussion / Jack Davis - trumpet and percussion / Greg Cain - tenor saxophone / Ben Powling - tenor saxophone and flute / Anna Chandler - baritone saxophone / Matías Reed – guitar / Ben Riches - guitar / Matthew Aplin - keys / Sam Dutton-Taylor – bass / Charlie Grimwood - drums and percussion.