Review: Mekanik Kommando - Shadow of a Rose (1986)


2010 CD Cover

artist: Mekanik Kom­mando
release: Shadow of a Rose
format: LP, CD
year of release: 1986, 2010
label: Rose­bud, cat|sun
dur­a­tion: 39:24

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

The name Mekanik Kom­mando is an express ticket to Dutch under­ground music of the 1980s, a period which I sadly never got to exper­i­ence, being born too late, as they say. Nev­er­the­less, his­tory is there to be dis­covered, and with the aid of beau­ti­ful rereleases like this one, we can exper­i­ence bits of the music of days gone by. Shadow of a Rose was the fourth stu­dio album by this band, which deb­uted in 1981 with It Would Be Quiet In The Woods If Only A Few Birds Sing, which was also rereleased in 2010 by tone­float. Since the ori­ginal LP, self-released on Rose­bud in 1986 is hard to get nowadays, this gate­fold digi­file remas­ter and rerelease on cat|sun is a very nice altern­at­ive.

The music on this album holds a middle ground between the exper­i­mental new wave of the early works and the psy­che­delic folk of The Use of Ashes, the band which Peter and Simon van Vliet star­ted in the 1990s, and which con­tin­ues to this day. This com­bin­a­tion res­ults in a series of songs with a very ori­ginal sound, mostly based on acous­tic and elec­tric gui­tars, bass, synths, violin, and subtle drums, but with quite a few sojourns into ambi­ent parts and with loads of freaky effects. A lot of the tracks sound quite folky, with a com­bin­a­tion of acous­tic gui­tar and violin, and dreamy almost hippie-like vocals, and in many senses this album was way ahead of the more recent revival of psy­che­delic folk.

High­lights of the album are found in the third and title track, in which Ben­nie Stor­telder’s violin com­bines per­fectly with the melod­ies worked out in the bass and gui­tar arrange­ment. Later on, the track fea­tures some nice per­cus­sion, and vocals by key­board­ist Mir­jam van Hout, which fades nicely into “Where the Wolf Sleeps”, an exper­i­mental piece some­what in the dir­ec­tion of early Dead Can Dance. Another nice track is “Run Rintintin Run”, a bass-driven instru­mental that really brings a smile to your face. From a musical point of view, the exper­i­mental “Wings of the Dragon” is per­haps the most inter­est­ing and ori­ginal track.

Des­pite a lot of good points, listen­ing back, this is not a totally mind-blowing album. I’m not par­tic­u­larly fond of the heav­ily accen­ted vocals, and in gen­eral the song­writ­ing, though with a lot of ori­ginal bits scattered around, doesn’t really com­mand your atten­tion at all times in the way bet­ter albums do. What’s left, though, is a very ori­ginal album with def­in­ite high­lights that was really ahead of its time in some ways.

Shadow of a Rose is there­fore highly recom­men­ded both for its own mer­its, and as piece of musical his­tory, being an essen­tial link in the chain of altern­at­ive and psy­che­delic folk from the 1960s till today, released in a dec­ade which was per­haps a low point in this tra­di­tion. And, as said, the qual­ity of the cat|sun rerelease will def­in­itely not dis­ap­point you.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. River Of Sing­ers (3:06)
2. The Blue West­ern Sea (4:39)
3. Shadow Of A Rose (4:46)
4. Where The Wolf Sleeps (2:26)
5. A Pic­nic In The Castleg­arden (4:28)
6. Scars (2:18)
7. Run Rintintin Run (5:49)
8. Wings Of The Dragon (6:16)
9. First Snow (3:42)
10. First Reprise (1:55)

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