24 October 2023

MONDO DRAG – Through The Hourglass (2023, LP RidingEasy Records)




Label: RidingEasy Records

Format: LP, Album, Limited Edition, Black Vinyl (housed in a heavy 24pt Jacket), 500 copies

Format: LP, Album, Limited Edition, Colored Vinyl, 500 copies

Format: CD, Album, Limited Edition, Digi-Pak 4-panel

Release Date: 15 Sep 2023

Mondo Drag is one of my favorite “New” American bands, they were originally formed in the Davenport, IA / East Moline, IL area, now based in Oakland, CA, they releasing albums since 2008, and they’re moving into the Psychedelic/Prog Rock spectrum, and it took them 8 whole years to release their 5th album “Through The Hourglass”, the follow up to 2015’s “The Occultation Of Light”. A lot of things happened since 2015, vocalist and keyboardist John Gamiño lost friends and family members. Meanwhile, humanity suffered the throes of a global pandemic Eventually, the band is back to business introducing a new rhythm section, Conor Riley on Bass (from the band Astra) and Jimmy Perez on Drums (from the band Birth). Let’s have a look at the rather informative text through Mondo Drag’s Bandcamp:

It’s been nearly eight years since the last Mondo Drag album came out. In that time, the Bay Area psych-prog band toured the US and Europe, performed at major festivals and—once again—reformed their rhythm section. But in the context of the band’s nearly two-decade existence, this period may have been the most fraught.
John Gamiño recalls: “It was a dark chapter, I was going through a lot of stuff personally – there’s been a lot of death, loss of family members, and grief. Plus, the band was inactive. It felt like time was slipping away from me. I felt like I was wasting my opportunities. I felt like I wasn’t participating in my story as much as I could have.”
This feeling of time slipping away is the prevailing theme on Mondo Drag’s new album, Through the Hourglass. “For me, Through the Hourglass really encompasses the quarantine/pandemic years,” Gamiño says. “But in a way that includes a couple of years before that for us, because the band was stagnant during that time. Living with that was really impactful on our daily lives. So, the album is reflective. It’s looking at time—past, present, future.”
Luckily, Mondo Drag emerged from this dour period reborn. Freshly energized by bassist Conor Riley (formerly of San Diego psych squad Astra, currently of Birth), who joined in 2018, and drummer Jimmy Perez, who joined in 2022, Gamiño and guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard have triumphed over the seemingly inexorable pull of time’s passage.
“Astra was the one contemporary band that we felt was on the same tip as us,” Gamiño says. “We saw the similarities and felt the same vibe. Conor moved to San Francisco in 2018 and heard we were looking for a bassist, so we got in touch. For us, it was like, ‘The synth player from Astra wants to play bass for us?’ We couldn’t think of anybody more perfect.”
Perez, meanwhile, brings deep psych-prog knowledge and impeccable skill. “He’s an amazing drummer, and he allowed us to do what we’ve been trying to do,” Gamiño says. “Before he came along, it was like, ‘Where are the drummers who like psych and prog and can play dynamically?’ We ended up trying out metal drummers, but they couldn’t swing. Jimmy was the final piece of the puzzle.”
The result is a dazzling and often plaintive rumination on the hours, days, and years—not to mention experiences—that comprise a lifetime. Two-part opener “Burning Daylight” smolders with melancholy, offering a whirl of multi-colored and hallucinatory imagery. “It’s about the California wildfires and a feeling of helplessness,” Gamiño explains. “There’s a juxtaposition between the dark lyricism and upbeat music which is meant to imply a sort of delusional state—and choosing our own delusion to overcome the crushing despair of reality.”
Eleven-minute centerpiece “Passages” is a sprawling prog-rock adventure, festooned with lofty guitar melodies, sweeping organ flourishes and a delicately finger-picked outro. But the heaviest song, thematically speaking, might be the mournful and hypnotic “Death in Spring,” which borrows its title from the like-named Catalan novel.
“In the novel, people are placed inside opened trees and their mouths filled with cement before they die to prevent their souls from escaping,” Gamiño explains. “The song is about three people I knew who lost their lives to gun violence, addiction, and mental health. It’s my way of cementing their souls in song form.”
Mondo Drag fans might be surprised by this blend of hard reality with literary surrealism, but it’s a perfect example of how the last several years have impacted Mondo Drag—and Gamiño in particular. “On all of our previous albums, the lyrical content is more psychedelic and out there,” he acknowledges. “This is the most personal stuff I’ve ever done, so I’m definitely feeling vulnerable on this one.”
The title Through the Hourglass comes from the opening of the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives. It’s less inspired by a predilection for daytime TV than Gamiño’s connection with his late mother, who passed during the time since the last album. “I used to watch Days of Our Lives with her every day growing up,” he explains. “The song is kind of a reinterpretation of the theme song, although it’s different enough that probably no one will catch it. Now that I’m getting older, I like to put these little Easter eggs in the songs for myself and for archival purposes—for memories.”
Through the Hourglass was tracked at El Studio in San Francisco, with an additional ten days of recording at the band’s rehearsal space, which doubles as a hybrid analog-digital recording studio. The album was engineered and mixed by Phil Becker, drummer of space-punk mainstays Pins Of Light. “We’re still here,” Gamiño says. “We’ve been in the studio working on our craft and honing our skills. Now we’re re-emerging for the next stage of our life cycle”… 

Mondo Drag consists of John Gamiño (Vocals, Synthesizer, Organ, Piano), Nolan Girard (Synthesizer, Guitar), Jimmy Perez (Drums, Percussion), Conor Riley (Bass, Vocals), and Jake Sheley (Guitar). All music is written and performed by Mondo Drag while all lyrics are written by John Gamiño. “Through The Hourglass” contains just 6 tracks, 3 on each side of the LP album. The opener “Burning Daylight Pt.1” starts with sea (or maybe air) waves and a haunted melody provided by the organ, slowly but rudely the scenery becomes super Heavy Prog! The guitar is taking the lead (of course), and the theme is slow and kind of dark, becoming mellow and then trippy, emerging with a melancholic feel with rather pessimistic lyrics, Organ, of course, is there to fill the possible gaps, while the track finally evolves into a modern Neo-Prog Rock anthem! The next one “Burning Daylight Pt.2” enters with a tremendous Santana-flirting guitar sound (quite addictive I have to admit), the environment remains Proggy (of course), and there’s a continuous repeat of this groovy guitar riff through the track creating a kind of a Funky-Prog motive while the Organ/Keys are successfully trying to give an old vintage aura to the track, and I think it’s been ages since the last time that I have heard such a “melodic” Neo-Prog song! Side ‘A’ closes with the 11 minutes “Passages”, starting under a similar “YES” and spacey-effected way, kind of dark and creepy, slowly becoming a heavy pompous PROGRESSIVE Rock elegy, shamelessly flirting with PSYCH, also there’s a magical mid-70s Pink Floyd strong influence that is clearly shown, though the band tries to follow a stronger and dynamic path of Heavy Prog which astonishingly and surprisingly is being blended with a rhythmic endeavor of “One Of These Days” while without a warning transports the listener somewhere inside “Echoes”, this is simply AMAZING! Side ‘B’ opens with the self-titled “Through The Hourglass”, starting in a dreamy way with warm but bittersweet vocals, becoming a superdelic Neo-Prog anthem reminding some of the early Porcupine Tree works, though the band experiences a post-rock attitude… “Death In Spring” is slow, quite melodic, and Heavy, definitely moving into that Porcupine-ish Neo-Proggy environment, full of melancholy with some shining 70s-Prog-inspired keys… That same Progressive Rock melodic motive is used on the last track of the album “Run”, a slow kind of balladesque tune filled with the necessary proggy-guitar outbursts, psych-flirting, diving towards the end into a late 70s Proggy Synth-dominated splendid atmos! So, what we have here is a surprisingly GOOD Neo-Prog album, an album which does not tire the listener, and comparing it with Mondo Drag’s previous “works”, the band suggests a more grounded approach to Prog music, definitely this is their most “mature” work to date, though clearly the scale is tipped far more to the Prog side than to Psych side… And this is Mondo Drag’s decision and I/We have to respect it… And, yes, this is one of the Best albums of 2023… TimeLord Michalis  


A1 Burning Daylight Pt. 1 4:06
A2 Burning Daylight Pt. 2 4:39
A3 Passages 11:02
B1 Through The Hourglass 6:21
B2 Death In Spring 6:10
B3 Run 6:54




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1 Response

  1. Pingback : TimeMachine Productions » TimeLord Michalis’ Best Albums of 2023 (Top 50+1)

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