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Mahogany Frog - 2008 - "Do5"

(47:33, Moonjune Records)



1.  GMFTPO 1:30
2.  T-Tigers & Coasters 11:11
3.  Last Stand at Fisher Farm 3:46
4.  You’re Meshugah 3:46
5.  I’m Not Your Sugar 2:28
6.  Demon Jigging Spoon 4:35
7.  Medicine Missile 4:22
8.  Lady Xoc & Shield Jaguar 8:55
9.  Loveset 6:25


Jesse Warkentin – el. & ac. guitars; keyboards; trumpet
Graham Epp – el. & ac. guitars; keyboards; trumpet
Scott Bollenberg – el. & ac. basses; percussion
JP Perron – drums; electronics

Prolusion. MAHOGANY FROG is a Canadian band I haven’t heard of until now. I only know that “Do5” is their fifth release to date, as the disc arrived without any supporting material.

Analysis. It was from the outset clear to me that this album is tough to review and that it will change its outlines with each successive listening, but, due to the current workload, I can’t allow myself to play it again and again. In short, I’m still not sure whether my vision of it is exact, so please don't judge me too severely if it’s somewhat fallacious or incomplete. Made up of nine instrumental tracks, “Do5” reminds me overall of a tasteful cocktail of styles ranging from mid-‘70s Art, Hard and Space Rock as well as Fusion, late-‘60s psychedelic and garage music, to late-‘80s ‘battle’ progressive Space Metal, with a touch of Electronic. A band with such a broad genre scope should have a strong identity to their work and Mahogany Frog’s sound is indeed very much their own, fairly often coming across as being one-of-a-kind. Nevertheless I will venture to cite several artists as well as creations as relative reference points: Classic Hawkwind and ELP, early Pink Floyd and Clear Blue Sky, Voivod’s “Nothing Face”, “Erpland” by Ozric Tentacles, Gong’s “You” and “Fish Rising” by Steve Hillage, and may their quantity serve for you, readers, as another proof of Mahogany Frog’s overall originality and diversity of approach. With the exception of the finishing track Loveset (which is a sort of piece for heavily distorted vintage keyboards and odd effects), the band’s passion for building stylistically polymorphous structures is obvious everywhere on the recording, but to a somewhat lesser degree within its first half. Of the tracks located at its ‘upper stories’, GMFTPO and I’m Not Your Sugar are overall the heaviest in the set; Last Stand at Fisher Farm is woven predominantly of symphonic fabrics; finally, You’re Meshugah and T-Tigers & Coasters both begin and develop on a symphonic basis also, but continue in a different manner: the first as a straight, jovial, hard rock tune accompanied by handclaps, whereas the latter is an advanced composition, fully comparable with those that are being described next. The band’s mastery in blending different styles into a single, amazingly coherent, whole is particularly striking on the compositions that, well, best of all reflect the essence of the entire release, namely Demon Jigging Spoon, Medicine Missile and Lady Xoc & Shield Jaguar. Each of these is filled with complexity, revealing plenty of mazes and traps along the way: now as sudden shifts in direction and pace, now in the form of highly eclectic jams which develop against what may at first seem to be quite a stable background, a sort of thematic jumping-off place for those, but is in fact a highly mobile substance. Since the band widely uses studio possibilities, with two of the musicians, Graham Epp and Jesse Warkentin, each handling several instruments (guitars, pianos, micro-Moog, ARP string ensemble, Farfisa organ, to name a few), there are often multiple soloing lines which cross each other by such intricate parabolas that, quite frankly, I was long scratching my head trying to classify these swirling, kaleidoscopically changeable, maelstrom-like jams before I got a kind of consolation prize, having not invented anything better than “something halfway between rock and jazz improvisations”. The more easily comprehensible feature of this creation and at the same time its most noteworthy aspect (differentiating it from probably all the other discs I’ve heard this year) concerns the roles that the musicians play here. Both the aforesaid multi-instrumentalists or, to be more precise, their parts, with certain regularity replace each other at the forefront of the arrangements and vice versa, at their background (which is worth praising already in itself); bassist Scott Bollenberg is usually at their rhythmic base, whilst the band’s battery commander, JP Perron – you won’t believe me – is at the spotlight almost at every given moment, soloing both ceaselessly and incredibly diversely. That’s not to say JP actually leads all the proceedings on the recording but anyhow this, fantastically gifted and inventive, drummer appears as the main driving force of those, throughout. What a remarkable, in all senses clever, player!

Conclusion. Though not a complete makeweight, the last track Loveset somewhat mars the overall appearance of this recording, as also the second half of You’re Meshugah does. Otherwise this is a brilliant effort whose originality and eclecticism make me think of it as a seventies’ rather than a modern-day creation. Even an experienced diver into musical worlds needs many returns to this one to dig it, and this is what I most of all value Prog for: Top-20-2008.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: January 4, 2009
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Moonjune Records
Mahogany Frog


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