RX Bandits’ new experiment

Article by: Derek Anderson

‘Mandala’ further takes the band past Ska and towards the realm of the unknown

In a radical change from their roots, the RX Bandits album Mandala (2009, MDB Records/Sargent House) takes a more experimental direction. The album could be closely linked to the side-project of members Matt Embree, Joe Troy, Chris Tsagakis and former member Rich Balling, The Sound of Animals Fighting. With rapid guitar lines and extremely impressive drumbeats, Mandala is yet another addition to the Bandits’ progression and evolution through music.

Originally a ska band, the RX Bandits have massively evolved through their discography. Their first album, Those Damn Bandit,s (1997,Drive-Thru Records)was pure ska, full of horns and gang vocals. The band also had a handful of reggae tracks, such as the song “Babylon,” off of their album Progress (2001, Drive-Thru Records). As the band moved through their albums, however, they have grown fonder of guitar effects and synth, moving them closer to the experimental realm. Although the difference is astounding, the Bandits have managed to keep a small part of their roots embedded in their newest album. With the radical differences, horns and small reggae segments can still be found on Mandala.

Disregarding the band’s past albums, Mandala is a solid compilation of tracks that are easy to listen to. Some experimental music, for example, and some of The Sound of Animals Fighting’s music can be too much at once to enable a listener to play through the whole CD. This is not the case. Mandala is a good mix of slow and fast songs that are more so musically driven than vocally.

The vocals are strong in the album, but it is the instruments that carry most of the weight. The song “Hearts That Hanker For Mistake” is a great example of this. The drums are absolutely incredible with rapid fills and an intense mixture tempo changes. They are by far the strongest component on the Mandala, only to be matched, but not surpassed, by the guitars. The guitars play fast riffs that dizzy up the listener, but then soothes them with rhythmic and soft chord progressions mixed in with delay and reverb. The combo of the two makes for great tunes.

The only big complaint is the vocals, which get rather boring if a listener lets the whole album play through. There isn’t much change in them and they can sometimes take away from the musical aspects of the tracks.

The RX Bandits have ventured far from their starting line. It is hard to tell that this album could even be the same band off of Those Damn Bandits, but yet provides an interesting progression to listeners. It is definitely an album that can stand alone. It isn’t remotely close to the ska the Bandits used to play, but still provides interesting and musically impressive tracks.

Mandala is a good album for anyone who loves to pick apart the musical aspects of songs and likes the more complicated edge of music. It has some pop aspects as well, but they are not as frequent as the intense guitars and drums. The best tracks on the album are “Mientras La Veo Sonar” and “Bring Our Children Home or Everything Is Nothing” and should definitely be checked out. The RX Bandits have thrown something different together yet again, which will only keep listeners wondering what they’ll come up with next.