Dan Mangan at Bush Hall: a hurricane of sound
From the moment Dan Mangan took the stage at Bush Hall, London, last night 3rd May, an explosion of instrumental grandeur erupted.
Accompanied by a musical medley of electric guitar strummed with a bow, bass, drums and a trumpet, the show began with the orchestral introduction of About as helpful as you can be without being any help. The tension in the music built to a climax of what can only be described as a hurricane of sound, sweeping away the established restrictions and boundaries we would expect from a typical folk artist. And Mangan is certainly not a typical folk artist – having admitted that he felt trapped by the box of acoustic singer /songwriter, Mangan has wandered into novel territory with his music, creating an experimental, sonically broad, jazz influenced, post- folk that separates him from the mould.
Throughout the show, Mangan cultivated a chaotic force field of music which was both intense, but somehow also deliciously light. This unseemingly compatible union exists within all of Mangan’s music and especially in his new album Oh Fortune. This album tackles bolder and more deep-rooted issues, exploring the contradictions and paradox of existence and dealing with the age old emotions of greed, fear, anger and love that bind humanity together. Mangan’s interest in observing the social and emotional aspects of mankind allow him to become an incredibly thought-provoking and educative songwriter, touching on themes such as social borders in Jeopardy and manipulation and soldier shell shock in Post War Blues. Yet it is not just social commentary that Mangan is interested in; most of his tracks focus on the rawest human emotions. Leaves, Trees, Forest shows loneliness and forlorn hopelessness whilst How Darwinian articulates human bewilderment. Mangan also performed tracks from his first album Nice Nice Very Nice such as Basket, a song about growing old, the cycle of life and death and the importance of living for the present.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Although the subject matter may be somewhat depressing, Mangan exhibited awesome charisma and incredibly high energy and enthusiasm. The colossal magnificence of the music detracted from what could have been a rather despondent and pessimistic performance. And this, I think, is meant to be the point. Mangan has an admirable ability to put things into the grander scheme of existence and rather than provoke sadness, he rouses an understanding that grief, fear, hope, love, hate, confusion, paradox and hypocrisy are the unavoidable facts of life, yet we must exist among them and take as much happiness and good as we can. As he says it “Even though things are difficult and existence is weird, you have to feel the undercurrent of joy. Living is fucking cool.”
To find out more about Dan Mangan click here.
You can also watch Mangan’s beautifully short mini documentary In The Car With: Dan Mangan which shows him driving through the picturesque British Columbian landscape discussing his music.