Mandrake Handshake // ‘Gonkulator’

Words: Gabrielle White / @gabrielleblanche

  • Mandrake Handshake’s latest single ‘Gonkulator’ is a nostalgic and scintillating taste of the 60’s.
  • The track is produced by Stereolab’s Andy Ramsay and released via Nice Swan Records.
  • The collective is made up of: Row Janjuah (guitar, synth, bass, percussion), Trinity Oksana (vocals), Liv Duval (vocals), Elvis Thirlwell (tambourine, percussion), Eris Nishku (tambourine, percussion), Charlie Arrowsmith (guitar), Danny Jeffries (bass), Shan Sriharan (synth, organ), David Howard-Baker (flute, saxophone) and Joe Bourdier (drums).

Woodstock is not dead, or at least that’s the vibe you might get when listening to Oxford psychedelic collective Mandrake Handshake and their new single ‘Gonkulator’. Far from the lo-fi indie of today, Mandrake Handshake churns out pseudo-orchestral, 60’s festival jams like no other.  

‘Gonkulator’ greets you with a wall of eclectic yet harmonious sound, hip-gyrating guitar riffs, funky bass and layered synth. But what really plants you straight into the ground of Woodstock is David Howard-Baker on flute; rivalling Bud Shank’s infamous flute solo on the classic 60’s tune ‘California Dreamin’ (The Mamas and the Papas), this tone transports you straight into the nostalgia. 

Above: Release artwork for ‘Gonkulator’, Nice Swan Records (2020)

What’s particularly striking about the band’s third single of the decade is its length, especially considering their previous track ‘Hypersonic Super-Asterid’ clocks in at a very healthy 8:58. ‘Gonkulator’ runs at only 2:37, shorter than even your average top-ten tune. About this, the band commented: “This is our 3-minute party tune, but in swung 5/4 ‘cause who doesn’t love a good 5/4 groove!? It’s a song about sheer joy, happiness and freedom for two-and-a-half minutes – can’t be any longer because it’s too much otherwise”. It’s misleading, with the 5/4 rhythm driving a sense of eternity, a never-ending groove yet we only get a taste. Short and sweet, like euphoria so often is.  

📸 – @lolastephen

The group has already made a big splash with features in NME and CLASH amongst others. With an EP set for release in early 2021 and their recent signing to Nice Swan Records, this fledgling collective gives me hope that psychedelic-rock will continue its resurgence and we can all don our feathered bangs and get back to swaying in a sunbaked festival field in the age to come. 

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