If there’s one thing that lockdown has taught us, it’s to appreciate the near-to. Whether it’s a wander through a local wooded copse, the discovery of a shortcut through your local estate, or perhaps a new-found love of ornithology, the last year has revealed hitherto unappreciated details of our close environment. It is the much-needed small bursts of joy that these can bring that Simon Klee celebrates in his latest album, Mandagora.
Like much of Klee’s previous output, this release on the Woodford Halse label showcases his love of nature. Inspired by walks along tributaries and nights spend under the stars in his native Thames Valley, the ten tracks all have their roots in the natural world.
So how does Klee introduce the listener to his paean to nature? Not for him the folksy nurdlings you might expect given the accompanying floral artwork. Instead we get space synths!
Album opener ‘Constant Velocity’ creates bows and arcs that eventually form delicious melodies from which the first squawks of bird chatter emerge, and we’re on our way.
After the first couple of tracks a more organic feel does start to come through. The woodwind sounds of ‘Sky Raider’ are backed by some lovely spacey melodies, evoking early Kraftwerk. And from there things become a bit more unsettling.
Across several of these tracks, we experience the slightly disquieting feeling of being alone in a forest –watched by unseen eyes. Echoey, haunting guitars give way to the chatter of birds and perhaps other, unknown creatures.
We then emerge from the woodland to the sound of wind chimes on ‘Phantom Energy’ and the album picks up pace. Klee likes to skirt the edges of the dance floor and this is also the case on parts of this album. The uptick in pace is enjoyable and is continued through some of the album’s final tracks.
‘Anticrepuscular Rays’ brings a proggy, trancey vibe, before things unexpectedly turn bouncy, fun and electro on ‘Endosymbiosis’. The album closes with its eponymous title track, taking the tempo down a notch or two as the tired traveler unlaces their walking boots and takes a well-earned sip from their flask of herbal tea.
So strap on that Walkman (this is a cassette and digital release) and head off for one more stroll though the countryside, this time with the sounds of Mandragora to accompany and inspire you.
Mandragora by Simon Klee is released May 7 2021 by Woodford Halse
Words: Chris Hill
(c) 2021 Further.