From the theatrical brain of artist, Ira Lawrence, comes MAPAGKAWANGGAWA, a record of fact, fantasy and travel set to the tune of a (reputedly haunted) electric mandolin. The adventure that led to Lawrence’s debut full-length album began when the playwright’s theater collective, Everything Is Everywhere, traveled to the Philippines to write, teach and perform at Manila’s Karnabal Festival of performance and social innovation. Most profoundly, the experience opened his eyes to another culture, but it also forced him to reflect on the strange feelings of isolation and distance from friends and family. When he arrived back home in the states, he recorded himself performing the album’s 11 tracks– unpretentiously, and at breakneck speed, “in Brooklyn at Ryan & Molly’s apartment between Christmas and New Years, 2015”—just Lawrence and his mandolin, his inheritance from an estranged grandmother, received only a year before. After mixing and mastering by John Jagos- a.k.a. Brothertiger- in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the album was ready for its October 7th release.
Today, Elmore is premiering “Perpetual Bachelor Party,” a track from the upcoming release that showcases Lawrence’s signature blend of whimsy and wit with introspection and- at times- melancholy.
Lawrence writes about about the track, in verse:
“I was the only single dude
at my best friend’s bachelor party.
Where is Mrs. Haunted Mandolin?
I bought a severed hand from a voodoo shop,
and weed from my Uber driver,
exhaled on a Bourbon street balcony,
and wished for a Taylor Swift kiss off,
commissioned for a Hangover / Bridesmaids mash up,
ghostwritten by Japandroids,
So I could mandolin-channel psychic damage
for all those single folk
whose hearts are still dancing…
I guess I’ll put you on the guestlist?
It could happen
Though, as his website proclaims in all caps, the record contains “NO SYNTHS. NO GUITARS. NO DRUMS. ONLY IRA LAWRENCE’S HAUNTED MANDOLIN,” he manages to create quite a ruckus with strings and voice alone. Lawrence’s voice is insistent but somehow indifferent, a perfect vehicle for the major/minor 20- 30- something existential angst he conveys, and used to mighty effect when multiplied and layered against itself. “I’m a blasting cap so don’t start me,” he repeats against the tinny, constant strum of the mandolin, which may very well be haunted by the ghosts of inspired stringdusters of yore. He takes up the mantle well.
MAPAGKAWANGGAWA, the album’s tongue-twister of a title, is a Tagalog word meaning charitable or philanthropic, so keeping with the sentiment, Lawrence will donate a dollar of every album sale to the Sipat Lawin Ensemble, the Filipino theater company behind Karnabal. Preorder through Lawrence’s Bandcamp, and connect with him via his website. Listen to “Perpetual Bachelor Party” and check out tour dates below.
10/12 Evansville, IN @ PG
10/13 Kansas City, KS @ Buffalo Room
10/17 Saint Louis, MO @ Foam
10/21 Athens Ohio @ The Donkey
10/22 Akron, OH @ Hive Mind