There are few things that will drag you out of your warm house on a wet, miserable Friday evening. And yet, the promise of Mansion of Snakes live at Brudenell Social Club launching their new album was enough to drag me off the sofa, wrap up in a rain coat and put on my dancing shoes. Bringing sunny, vibrant afrobeat to the drizzly streets of Hyde Park it certainly cleared away the Halloween cobwebs. Legendary!!
Let me set the scene: it’s November 1st, you are at Brudenell Social Club and you are amongst the bustling music fans who are either here to see Mansion of Snakes or Finnish rock legend Michael Monroe. You are excited and you are early so that you can catch the support act Jasmine, a saxophone led quintet from Leeds. Their line-up looked like this: Jasmine Whalley on sax, Owen Burns on bass, George Hall on drums, Ben Haskins on guitar and George Macdonald on keys. Before the gig, I was excited to read that their sound is influenced by the likes of MF DOOM and they are particularly interested in blending hip-hop and jazz which is SO up my street. Their music is really refreshing and I particularly liked ‘Cold Sweat’, they opened up the evening perfectly. At the close of their set we were told there would be a 15-minute break, just enough time to get another pint before the 10-piece behemoth graced the stage.
You would be a fool to think that Mansion of Snakes would open with a meek, limp fizzle. No, they blasted onto the stage like a flaming cannonball with, the aptly titled, ‘Boom For Real’ which also opens their new Album M.O.S. From the get-go the energy was vivacious and fun with booming tones from the brass and woodwind, seismic percussion as well as funky guitar. Within a matter of seconds, the crowd were dancing away and allowing the music to dictate their soul for an hour or so. The second track ‘Questions Left Unanswered’ introduced Vanessa Rani’s commanding vocals into the mix. This continued into ‘Turn Your Back’ which is actually one of my favourites from their album. Opening with an almost bouncy reggae-type rhythm courtesy of Matthew Aplin on the Keys, Charlie Grimwood on drums and Sam Dutton-Taylor on bass. It gains more and more momentum before the climactic end which is an almighty wall of sound led by Rani’s rousing elongated notes. So so good!
‘Kevlar’, one of their older tracks, was next. The array of percussion bouncing around the room had everyone unwinding and jiving. Trumpeter, Jack Davies, really demonstrated his skillz on this one with a wicked almost call and response-esque section with the rest of the band. Following this was another old favourite, ‘Mating Season’, which was a vinyl track they did with Come Play With Me. The guitars on this one really blew me away, both Matías Reed and Ben Riches imbue this track with flavours of psychedelia. Fusing funk and jazz with psychedelic riffs is a tried and tested recipe for success and Mansion of Snakes do it so well. These undertones carried on into ‘Fire Melts Ice’, a track that really reminds me of the Axis era of Hendrix with its whirlpool of textures. It bears mentioning that the gig was carefully structured, balancing new tracks with old ones and really mixing together high-intensity boppers with slow groovers.
Up next was ‘Forty Miles Per Wolf Hour’, another one of my favourites, which certainly brought a carnival of sound to Brudenell. I particularly love the 70s detective chase-scene vibe of this track, involuntary an image of someone sliding over a car bonnet comes to mind(?). Anna Chandler’s soulful baritone really complimented the fast-paced rhythm of the track, there were LOTS of wild and inventive shapes being thrown to this one! ‘Me and Them’ is a tale of two cities, starting mellow and laid-back it soon spiralled into a tempo-taunting frenzy. The shimmering flute, played by Ben Powling (who also plays the sax), complimented the mood really well.
We all knew it was coming… and when it did, it WENT. The first track to be released off the new album, ‘Concrete Money’, blew the roof off Brudenell. The tightness of this live performance is testimony to their brilliance, for more info on the track check out my other review (shameless plug). The percussion filled breakdown had everyone clapping alongside Rani’s punchy vocals, definitely a highlight of the show. In an interesting change of tone their final track, which actually closes their album, was the blissful ‘Komorebi’. A calm sway descended on the crowd as the night closed with emotive percussion accompanied by beautiful melodies from the woodwind and brass. Made even more tranquil in hindsight because I have since learned that komorebi is the Japanese word for when sunlight filters through the trees – absolute bliss!
When you watch a live performance that is just as tight as the recorded track you know these artists are special. Yet, not only was the music incredible but the atmosphere was as well. Everyone in that room, regardless of whether you were busting some serious moves in the front row or head bobbing in the back row, were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Mansion of Snakes created a veritable isle of paradise at Brudenell Social Club and I can’t wait for them to come back.
The verdict: An exotic fruit punch! Jam-packed with juicy fruits and tangy flavours, a real party for the palette. Fun for sharing, plenty to go round and maybe a cheeky hint of booze in there as well. Fill up your cup and hit the dance floor ┏(･o･)┛♪┗ (･o･) ┓
Take a listen to their new album: