Footprints From A Tribal Id

by Ash Mandrake

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This is a concept album. It's about beginnings and endings, and about the tribe's passage through the harshness of winter. It's very tribal, some say shamanic. It is poetry over choral texture, with a drum duel in the middle. Tabla verses Bodhran. Cymbals, Gongs and Uilleann pipes. See below for further details, and the album credits section to read reviews.


The album is roughly a palindrome.
The opening track (track 1: From A Seed Will Grow) is concerned with beginnings: The orator, sewing seed in his garden, harnesses the elements to unleash the magic of germination. The final track (Track 10: Sky Boat) is concerned with endings: As the tree that may have been planted in the opening track is burned as an offering or as fuel to cremate a loved member of the tribe who joins his ancestors in the sails of a boat that sails through the sea of stars..
Moving inwards, the second and penultimate tracks deal respectively with the tribe’s experience of passing in and out of winter. In Belly Of An Ice Giant (track 2) the beauty and harshness of winter are respectively celebrated and fearfully acknowledged. Whereas in Rolling Down Hill To The Bright Summer Sun, the tribe attempt to heave the sun up from the horizon and then celebrate it’s joyful magnificence.

The centre piece of the album “Shade and Flake” embodies the torment of the tribe as they pass through the harshness of winter, and the attempts of their leader to guide them through their fears and despondency in “Knot Maker (track 3) The Bardic Brigadier calls the tribe around the fire. Then follows his recounting of the story of “The Crystal Joy” (track 4); the origins of the central characters “Shade and “Flake”. In tracks 5 and 7, Shade and Flake present themselves. A battle ensues in track 6 (knot duel), Shade being represented by tabla and Flake by bodhrn. Flake emerges from the battle victorious, to deliver his gentle victory-soliloquy in track 7.

A concept running through tracks 5, 6 and 7 is that of knots (the despondency of knots in the mind – and their breaking) Flake’s line “In the breaking of knots therein all darkness is dispelled” is pivotal, and marks the turning point in the battle (track 6). This theme is developed further by The Bardic Brigadier in “Knot Breaker” (track 8)through the line “Our knots shall braken be, by the medicines of laughter, and melted by the warmth of gentle’s love.” And with these soothing thoughts, he closes the centre piece of “Shade and Flake”, by casting the tribe into a healing sleep.


1 – From A seed Will Grow
2 – In The Belly Of An Ice Giant
Greeting the frost spirits
Dance of the ice sprites
Darkness Falls

3 – Prologue – Knot Maker
4 – The Crystal Joy
5 – Shade’s Theme
6 – Knot Duel
7 – Flake’s Theme
8 – Epilogue – Knot Breaker

9 – Rolling Down Hill To The Bright Summer Sun
Raising the sun
Dream of light
Let it shine
10 – Sky Boat


released March 9, 2014

Review by Nathan Lewis Williams
(Glastonbury Assembly Rooms – Fabulous Furry Folk Club promoter)

ASH MANDRAKE – Footprints From A Tribal Id review

Ash Mandrake must surely be one of the most gifted and hard working performance artists in Britain today. A multi-instrumentalist of considerable skill and dedication, his live shows have in recent years perfectly bridged the gap between enjoyable madcap entertainment and something far deeper: an uncompromising otherworldliness; his deeply medieval bardic invocations of another time and place mixed with more accessible humour, storytelling and virtuosic renditions of familiar material, accompanied by his custom made guitar-bass machine and subtly layered vocal loops. To see him live is to experience a unique genius at work, his talents solidified by intense focus and practice.

His epically prehistoric album, Footprints From a Tribal Id, is not for the faint-hearted, and the concessions to accessibility woven into his live performances are largely absent here. The story traces the turn of the seasons through a year, invoking some distant Antediluvian past with an almost cinematic vividness. The soundscape is minimal, with few guitars or other complex instruments, until their very welcome appearance in the central poem, Flake, and the later summer section; most of the album is taken up with primal, layered vocal chants and utterances of a sparse, proto-medieaval tonality, interspersed with rhythmical episodes on a cluster of hand-drums, bells and gongs, all complimenting the succinct, exquisite poetry which is mostly spoken. Occasional electro-acoustic minimalism adds to the icy atmosphere of the winter sections, while the skilful

spoken word interludes show Ash’s bardic gravitas at its best, the recurring vocal harmonies alongside providing texture and a tonal context, whilst also allowing the mischievousness of various telluric alter-egos to peek, imp-like, through the sonic weave.

To understand the form scheme and plot, it is well worth visiting Mandrake’s online synopsis – – which outlines the palindromic sections and the overall seasonal themes of light and shade, death and rebirth. The solemn ending, a funerary farewell to a brother on his way to a home amongst the stars, is moving in a way that belies the strange otherness of the album’s imagined world – the cosmic conclusion reminding us of something deeper than even our apparent humanity.

This is a profound work, and impossible to categorise. One can hope that one day it might be studied alongside the canonical classics of poetical and avant-garde composition. It’s not folk music, pure storytelling or electro-acoustic abstraction, though it contains these elements. Ash Mandrake, in his self-made, near-solipsistic artistry, is like a William Blake of our times, seemingly oblivious to current mores and preoccupations, and his words belong in a pantheon quite beyond time at all. Though unlikely to find much popular favour in the fleeting blips of current trends, this singular album, archetypal and above all timelessly bardic, deserves to endure as much as the mythos it invokes.

Nathan Lewis Williams



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Track Name: From A Seed Will Grow
My garden here I sew, with seed of dearest hope.
Purest potion of the sky wake thee from thy dream of thirst.
Power of light unfrost the earth.
Warmth to thee my seed, for birth, is gifted.
Free you now to here unfurl, and break to breath the sky

Throw your grit and guts; a passion to the sky.
A girth of strength shall quicken to the thunder's roar;
A dagger wind and lightning strike shall burn a viper's char into your heart.
And there a nest of crows will grow.
But from the knots and bunions,
New and green will rise once more to breathe upon the sky

From a seed will grow.
From a seed will grow.
From a seed will grow.

Copyright Ash Mandrake 2012
Track Name: In The Belly Of An Ice Giant
Greet the spirits of the frost.
Turn our lake to coldest stone.
and make by light of moon your dance of winter flowers.

(no lyrics)

What Cruel Companion winter's beauty keeps.
Cold our bones, and take our light;
To leave this empty shadow,
Where wolves of night draw close,
As darkness falls.

Copyright Ashmandrake 2012
Track Name: Prologue - Knot Maker

Hark - Gather thee here !
For I have stories for our troubled times.
From out two hats the brothers crept
To duel upon the life of knots entwined
So know thee well how through the darkness pass
the tourmented writhings of our minds

Hark - quicken thee !
For here commence the telling of our song
Be seated here around the fire
Where spirits dance umong the flamed tongues
Where wolves shall feel the sparks of spears
Where wives and mothers shed their tears
And where the strength of words shall lead us through our years.
Track Name: The Crystal Joy

Before the smiling of the stars
Before the meteors had tried to scar the dark
The crystal joy, complete as only one can be
Had charmed the emptiness into a sleep
And placed a spell upon the nothing where it lay

Before the land and seas were done
Before the birthing of the sun
The crystal sung itself a lullaby no more
And was woken by its loneliness
Before the earth was smashed into a spin
Before the moon was hurled into the void
The crystal grinned and cracked itself in two
Then mindful of another...
Whispered light into the dark...
To see its brother
Track Name: Shade's Theme

In darkness lurk all creeping forms.
From shadows stare unlidded eyes.
In absence find my mark;

For I am Shade.

Two things I tell to thee:
In the tieing of knots, therein my children are conceived.
In the simple black of night, there emptiness resides.

And darkness weighs like lead inside my boots.
To earth I say!
To hidden places send a shudder
Such as would crack the rock of caves and wake the dead.

For I am Shade!

Copyright Ash Mandrake 2006
Track Name: knot Duel
Lyrics are selected from the tracks "Shade's Theme" and "Flake's Theme"
Track Name: Flake's Theme

Through wisps of cloud, I float in timeless trance.
In the froth of waves, I play till seas fall still.
In snow, I lie and sleep;

For I am Flake.

Two things I say to you:
In the breaking of knots, therein all darkness is dispelled.
Every snow-flake is a tiny cathedral.

And light I am upon the air,
And light I am to earth,
Where here I sit waiting for the tenderness of melting;
Wherein I shall unlock my form and trickle out to sea;

For I am Flake

Copyright Ash Mandrake 2006
Track Name: Epilogue - Knot Breaker
And Now all here, around the flames,
Shall I thank you.
For your ears, your eyes, your minds, your hearts;
I thank you.
Our song is at an end, but I ask you for one thought your ears to bend:

You who would the knots of night to make untie,
In error do you toil alone -
Our knots shall breaken be, by the medicines of laughter
And melted by the warmth of gentle's love.

Leave your troubles with the spirits of the night,
And a peace upon you be...
Sleep now...
Track Name: Rolling Down Hill To The Bright Summer Sun

I fought with a frost that was cruel to the bone
I danced on a lke that was harder than stone
Through darkness I mourned you on the longest of nights
But now with your raising my world becomes bright

Raise, raise, raise, raising the sun
Raise, raise, raise, raising the SUN.


A dance through the darkness will bring you back home
A sleep in the cold earth till warmth brings the dawn
Your golden rays flickering were a dream of my nights
And now with your waking, my world becomes light.

I'm up on a hill top with with space all around
My feet in the earth and my head in the clouds

I'm up on a hill top and I'm breathing in deep
The earth pushing up through the soles of my feet

One tiny step forward sets a beat in the drum
And I'm rolling down hill to the bright... sun
To the bright summer sun
I'm rolling down hill to the bright summer sun.


Let it shine...
Let it shine...
Let it shine...
Let it shine...
Let it shine...
Shine, shine, shine, shine...
Track Name: Sky Boat
We put to flame this fallen giant
From seed to mighty tree made grow in seven ages of our time

We call upon the waves of the air...
We call upon the waves of the air...

Waves of the air take the smoke of our brother.
Let him fill the sails of the sky boat,
And with our go befores there find his comfort.

Join with our voices...
Join with our voices...

Join with our voices
Sing with us, all you who lived, and loved, and fought before.
Join with our voices...
Join with our voices...

Farewell to you our brother
May you drift now through the sea of stars.
In the sails of the sky boat,
Amonst your tribe
And in our time, there shall we find you.

Copyright Ash Mandrake 2012