Artist: Rx Bandits
Label: Sargent House (Echo Park)
Format: 2xLP (+ download card), clear blue vinyl, die-cut, gatefold; 1000 pressed
It's a rare Sargent House release that doesn't get the royal vinyl treatment, and thus far, Rx Bandits new record Mandala is the most breathtaking. The cover itself is a Sonny Kay original (the artist/singer who co-owned the GSL label before it folded in 2007, R.I.P.), which opens to reveal a die-cut inner jacket -- a small hole out of which gazes the eye of an oversize green parrot, seated on a sleeve which displays a stunning skull-ridden mandala. Inside of that, of course, is a translucent disc of rich blue vinyl. The pre-listening experience is akin to an Indiana Jones expedition, and the music actually manages to live up to that.
The Seal Beach-based band has long fought an uphill battle against the dooming un-hipness of having horns and an audible appreciation for roots reggae, even though RxB's path has, for the better part of 14 years, been guileless and boldly experimental. The Bandits have recently reconfigured as a brass-less four-piece, and Mandala was committed to 2-inch tape live in a house deep in the Angeles National Forest. It's a fiery prog-rock document right at home on a label closely associated with The Mars Volta. Sargent House owner Cathy Pellow also oversees the happenings of Rodriguez-Lopez Productions. - Chris Thompson