Bay Area-via-Midwest prog/psych merchants Mondo Drag have been on my radar for a few years, so seeing their latest release on RidingEasy Records, Through The Hourglass (evidently a nod to long-running American soap opera Days Of Our Lives) show up in the promo pool, I took it as a sign the time had come to finally check these guys out, and right off the bat, I can confirm the description of the band’s trippy, sometimes heavy, prog and psych sound are accurate.
Through The Hourglass unfolds with two-part opener Burning Daylight. Pt. 1 slowly awakens with some wind, perhaps ocean waves and chimes, before vocalist/keyboardist John Gamiño’s synth slowly creeps into the listener’s consciousness, followed by some fairly heavy riffery and notable swing from the rhythm section, before melting into a twinkly, prog-rock, melancholic, rumination on the wildfires that engulfed California early in the pandemic. Pt. 2, whilst still staying in that realm lyrically, is more up-tempo, and features some nice interplay between guitarists Jake Shelley and Nick Girard as they weave quasi-funky strumming with some nice lead work.
The album center piece, Passages, is an eleven-minute exercise in all things psychedelic and Floydian. Not surprisingly, the song takes it’s time building up, a slow-burn swirl of effects, before Jimmy Perez’s drums kick open the portal to Gamiño’s very Richard Wright-sounding organ, instantly recalling, for me, the intro to Pink Floyd’s classic In The Flesh.
Passages flows along, like a slow-drifting asteroid though space, featuring plenty of Floydian synth and guitar psychedelics, before the big boom inevitably happens as Mondo Drag kick it up a notch, anchored by the swing behind the kit. The track soon takes the listener through another portal featuring more epic Richard Wright style organ now complemented by some David Gilmore-esque, single-note, melancholic lead work, prior to the song fading out with some well-timed acoustic guitar dramatics.
perfect for late-night trip-outs and is a clinic in contemporary progressive and psychedelic music…
Title track, Through The Hourglass, transported me to the ‘70s where I felt as though I was in a parallel universe where Pink Floyd, Can, and krautrock is cosmically melded together, featuring plenty of psychedelic shred and synth theatrics. Gamiño’s soft-rock vocals certainly fit the mood of the song, but once again, the rock-solid rhythm section of Perez and bassist Conor Riley (Astra/Birth) deftly hold down the groove, anchoring the song. Their rhythm work, especially with headphones on, is one of the highlights throughout the entire album.
Death In Spring stays in the same dimension, featuring plenty of prog-dynamics, non-aggressive vocals and Floydian-synth work. Closer, Run, is of course, a slow-build, prog masterclass featuring plenty of twists and turns, and ups and downs, all of which are ably anchored by that stellar rhythm section, which, as evidenced throughout the whole album, allows the guitarists plenty of time and space to explore sounds, riffs, and psychedelic epic lead work, to say nothing of the multi-faceted Floydian keyboard histrionics.
If you’re looking for an album to rock-the-fuck out to, Through The Hourglass is probably not going to scratch that itch. However, if you’re in the mood for some epic, tripped-out, long-form Floydian-psych, then step into Mondo Drag’s time portal as the band transports you back to the heyday of ‘70s prog and krautrock. This album is perfect for late-night trip-outs and is a clinic in contemporary progressive and psychedelic music.
Scribed by: Martin Williams