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Neverending Dance: Welcome to Mandy, Indiana

"Mandy, Indiana / 24 Hour Party People" by Beyza Çimenki

"..." by Mandy, Indiana (Fire Talk, 2021)

"24 Hour Party People" by Michael Winterbottom (Pathé, 2002)

Dance is communication: call-and-response, monologue, conversation. You and I, together, speaking wordlessly. Rhythm is something that moves through the air and creates a different sensation within each and every one of us, and when we are moved we reach out for each other and twist our aching joints. Before even language, we danced to attract and repel. We dance because we must.

Mandy, Indiana is a band concerned with the physical, the painful, the overwhelming sound and feeling of unrestrained dance. Rhythm is at the forefront of every song in their short and rollercoaster-intense catalog: thudding, low-pressure kick drums, vocals percussive as constant military snare rolls, sub-bass so loud it pushes you like the wind. They are a singular wonder, an apocalyptic dance party that goes and goes until it burns out in ways that are both spectacular and frightening.

No: Mandy, Indiana (the place) does not exist, and its members live nowhere near the American Midwest. Originally the three-piece, all Mancunians, called themselves Gary, Indiana--a name they outgrew quickly with all its blunt honesty, shapeshifting into Mandy, an imagined place so real and dripping with viscera you’ll be convinced of its authenticity. In 2020 they released two incredible singles and in 2021, a mind-bending, tunnel-vision EP on Fire Talk--putting themselves in a place to absolutely fucking explode in 2022.

The first thing you will notice in Mandy, Indiana is its sonics--how it crushes your head between throttling percussion and rolling bass within seconds, the lo-fi excellence of its recordings bristling with energy and life. The sounds of a “buzzing fluorescent light and the rhythm of a passing train” are given equal weight to the world-ending full-band freakouts. The second thing you will notice is the commanding, detached voice of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Valentine Caulfield, whose presence pushes Mandy, Indiana’s songs right in front of your face. Delivered in a near-trance state in her native French, Caulfield’s lyrics flow along in a captivating stream of consciousness, dissecting work, war, existence, life itself.

These vocals are the glue that holds songs like “Nike of Samothrace” together: danceable riots that burst at the seams with ideas and noise. Named after the headless, winged statue of victory, the centerpiece of their title-less EP is, aside from their early singles, Mandy, Indiana’s most obtuse and intense offering to date. When the chorus rolls around the song's danceability bounces up like a booby trap, with ensnaring fuzz and vocals capturing the listener in its wake. It is a dance that explores space and distance, playing with the audience's stability and psyche as it lurches menacingly along.

“Bottle Episode,” the EP’s lead single, is the best opener to a dance-punk release since Liars' "Grown Men Don't Fall in the River, Just Like That." Martial drums burst upon impact and Caulfield’s vocals push the rhythm forward, flowing like the propaganda machine, until the song dissolves and expands past its charted boundaries into something uncanny and entrancing. As wailing samples whine away, panned left-to-right-and-back-again, a steady bass pulse bobs and weaves underneath, accenting tribal drumming and layers and layers of noise. The piece divebombs between the full-bodied release of dance and the tension of uneasy quiet, ultimately pushing itself past the breaking point and into a deathly miasma of feedback and reverb-drenched drums. The music video, made by the band, highlights its propulsive, psychedelic wonder.

The sound of Mandy, Indiana is the chaos of music attacking itself. It is perfect dance music in that is partially indescribable. Songs like “Bottle Episode” and “Alien 3” are layered beasts, cataclysmic walls that answer as many questions as they pose. The band has attracted listeners in the UK and abroad such as Gilla Band (FKA Girl Band), who are their closest contemporaries in their wailing post-punk-turned-mosh-party. The EP is capped off with two excellent remixes: Daniel Avery's glistening remix of "Alien 3" is among his most alien compositions to date. Meanwhile, Club Eat's "Nike of Samothrace" takes its original and jolts it full of distorted glee.

Mandy, Indiana claim some influences, but we can hear none of them; Gaspar Noé, Leos Carax, within the modern French extremity movement are, according to their Bandcamp, are their biggest. Of course, we hear house music and noise-rock, but it is the something else that sets Mandy, Indiana, apart. The genre diversions, the immediate and threatening vocals, the “too-much-ness” of everything, feel like a new, foreign land. This, to me, is true artistry: when influence meets intuition, and something entirely new is born. Mandy, Indiana, is a place we can breathe in and inhabit.

The only thing I can compare this incredible band’s energy to is another hidden gem, a film documenting their local scene before they inhabited it: “24 Hour Party People” by Michael Winterbottom, the best film about Manchester’s music ever made. The film embodies everything Mandy, Indiana’s music represents: wry, deathly-black humor, escapism into the totality of sound, the impossibility of the industry, and most of all devotion to oneself.

The film, at once a dissection, criticism, and retelling of popular music in Manchester through the 70s into the 90s, is all attitude, volume, and contradictions. Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson fumbles his way through punk and alternative into new wave, disco, house, and rave, guiding bands from the Sex Pistols to New Order as they explore the boundaries of popular, ass-shaking music, their own failings, Manchester, and life. We see the movement of genre and style past our understanding and into the future. The suicide of Ian Curtis upends the film right in the middle, rocketing our remaining characters into a strange new world: a world Mandy, Indiana has realized on “...” This is the energy of their debut, a vision so unorthodox it can only be understood on its own terms. Those terms are: shut the fuck up, it's time to dance.

Below, you can check out Mandy, Indiana’s music video for “Bottle Episode” and “Nike of Samothrace,” listen to “...” on Spotify, and purchase their EP via Fire Talk:

Watch "24 Hour Party People" free on Pluto TV:


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