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Album Review: The Mangroves, 'The Grand Scheme EP'


The Mangroves, The Grand Scheme EP
  • The Mangroves, The Grand Scheme EP

(Self-released, digital download)

The Mangroves are an instrumental quartet from Lyndonville. They came together as students of Lyndon State College's innovative Music Business and Industry program. In the band's short career, its members have evolved, with remarkable speed, from dorm-funk jams into a seriously polished group of young musicians.

Their latest project, The Grand Scheme EP, feels like a line in the sand marking a new beginning. Between this stellar sampler and an extensive summer tour schedule, the Mangroves are making it clear they aim to have an impact far beyond the Northeast Kingdom.

They've definitely got the tools for the job. Like the band's previous releases — not including Urban Priorities, a 2014 collaboration with BTV hip-hop champs Lynguistic Civilians — The Grand Scheme is a three-song EP. It's a short ride, but the recipe works because every track here is single-worthy material.

The party starts with "1970," a big, sexy slab of synth-heavy insanity. The hook is anthemic, and the vamps are absolutely scorching, pushed by the atomic-clock fury of drummer Ian MacGregor. There's also a break that showcases the slapping chops of bassist Austin Beveridge. This is how you start off a set when you've got something to prove.

"Cnidarian," the second cut, is perhaps the EP's finest moment. Floating on a dreamlike R&B pocket, the track spotlights the near-psychic bond between guitarist Mike Marzerka and keyboard player Dylan Allwine. Their understated and deft melodic lines blend seamlessly. It's a very mature piece of work. It also sounds flat-out amazing.

On their two previous EPs, the Mangroves opted to self-produce and got predictably demo-tape results. That loose, live feel was hardly a bad thing, but The Grand Scheme sounds completely different. This is largely thanks to the production expertise of Brian Warwick, a Grammy-winning engineer who recently joined the faculty at Lyndon State — sorry, Northern Vermont University, as it will soon be called.

The EP sounds lush and spacious, and Warwick's mix emphasizes the ensemble's aesthetic: deep pockets and harmonized grooves. There are no flashy solos, no obvious "lead" musician. The Mangroves are totally committed to their songs.

The project wraps up with "POWr," a return to the straightforward jam-funk sounds that once defined the band. Yet what stands out this time around isn't the immaculate mix but the tasteful composition and dynamite performances. These gentlemen are locked in, and it's a pleasure to hear.

Indeed, the Mangroves have grown so much, it's almost like they're a new band. The short EP inevitably leaves the listener wondering what else they've been cooking up. In the short term, the Mangroves will be working the festival circuit hard this summer, so you'll have ample opportunities to catch them live and find out.

Beyond that? Life comes at you fast, and young bands finishing college are always in a precarious position. One can only hope the Mangroves will stick together and deliver a full-length album of this caliber. In the meantime, The Grand Scheme EP is the perfect entrée to introduce these NEK talents to a wider audience.

The Grand Scheme EP by the Mangroves is available at The Mangroves play Nectar's in Burlington on Thursday, June 1, opening for the Atlantic Effect.

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