MANTRA was a studio and live project before Red Painted Red active 1997-2001. There were two releases 'Painted Red' and 'Every Defect'. If you are so inclined both of the albums can be downloaded free here.
'First things first: this has to be one of the ten best albums of the 1990s. I don't make such claims casually - rest assured that this record is unique enough to qualify.
One with unusual influences on display - on their PAINTED RED debut it was possible to discern the shoegazing guitar sound, some Kate Bush (piano usage, unusual turns of phrase), some Kristin Hersh (emotional intensity), Cranes' way of combining dissonance and ethereality, Miranda Sex Garden's ability to do the same whilst integrating strings. With this album Mantra created their own sound - the above influences are far less relevant. All the songs here are piano-based - and the piano lines are peculiarly elegant and eloquent throughout. Guitars, as before, are used as orchestration, often adding an undercurrent of industrial dissonance. Almost all the songs are slow-paced. Chamber-ensemble like string charts crop up frequently. The most startling thing about the album, instrumentally speaking, is its prominent use of double-reeds (i.e oboe, english horn). They're not particularly used to prettify the music or act a exotic saxophone substitutes, they sound (certainly on "Our Disease" and "Catcher") like credible rock instruments. Yvonne Neve's vocals are quite remarkable - while she does slightly resemble PJ Harvey (upper register) and Katy Carr or Siouxsie Sioux (lower register), she's more controlled, more precise, than any of them. The lyrics are exceptional. Someone described the album as a lengthy diatribe against a partner, but while a turbulent relationship is certainly being described, there's far more to these songs than that. The lyrics don't always make literal sense, but they're full of arresting images: consider firstly the unusual sexual innuendo throughout "Rage" (the only hard rock song on the album, with appropriately carnal vocals), and the alter-ego or inner-demon "playing at lives with cars...drinking the tar in my lungs" in "Catcher" (in which the oboeist provides the most memorable instrumental hook on the album). Is the album about a couple dying of AIDS? A wild thought, but "disease" imagery is everywhere - not only that exceptionally haunting song "Our Disease", but just as prominently in the exquisite "The Making Of Me" and the more menacing spoken piece "Coma": in both she seems to be anticipating imminent death from the disease she shares with her partner. In individual songs, and throughout the album, she's alternately angry and despairing, dominant ("when I want you I expect to have you...when I ask I expect you to answer yes") and tender (the whole song "Lovers"), indomitable and sexually lethal ("let me anesthetize you with my poison"; whole songs like "I Feel Free" and the gorgeous "Frail" which is lyrically anything but frail) and then desperately vulnerable (especially the sweetly soulful "Hymn"). You feel for her and fear for her - Mantra have never released another album: you have to ask ..Yvonne, are you alright? are you even still with us?' But maybe she wouldn't appreciate the attention - the second title song ("..Of' Every Defect"), the only one to feature a danceable beat and sequenced synthesizers, could be read as a warning to fans to keep their distance. I guess I haven't conveyed the uniqueness of the album, but there's only so much words can say. In conclusion, we the fans are keeping our distance, but still waiting - for more news of the band and the singer, and even (we hardly dare hope) another album that's ALMOST as moving, disturbing and profoundly beautiful as this one.' (COCA-EBOLA)