(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
How cool is your band if you have an album cover depicting two vintage keyboards popping out of an electronified toaster? Pretty damn cool if you ask me! Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, this Canadian group has been together for about a decade and has released several albums so far. Although relatively obscure for most of their existence, Mahogany Frog hopes to change that with their debut on the Moon June records label.
Combining a post rock approach with plenty of retro instrumentation, there is a collision of old and new ideas that just works perfectly here. The group consists of Graham Epp and Scott Warkentin on guitars and all sorts of old keyboards and synths, Scott Ellenberger on basses, and J.P. Perron on drums and electronic. Graham and Scott also play trumpets on a couple of tracks. The band produced DO5 along with adventurous engineer Mike Petkau who let the band experiment with unorthodox recording techniques over a seven month period to get the right sound they were looking for.
The sound of Mahogany Frog is quite difficult to describe (aren’t all the good ones that way?) When I first checked out a few samples from them a while back, I thought they had a sound that was a bit like Tortoise meets Stereolab. While they still retain a small portion of that style, they have expanded enormously. The band uses lots of fuzzed out electric piano sounds and can be very powerful at times. I get a real sense of experimentation as well as some great tripped out spacieness. While they are completely instrumental, there are a few vocal samples that crop up in spots.
It would be almost futile of me to pick out any favorite tracks because everything on here is memorable. The 11-minite “T-Tigers & Toasters” has elements that hint at grandiose progressive structure of a 70s symphonic band but the overdriven guitar work hinting at a punk style just throws it all off. That is typical of the musical roller coaster on display here; once you get a handle on something, a weird quality or unusual arrangement just throws you for a loop. The track “Lady Xoc & Shield Jaguar” had me thinking of Steve Howe’s “Australia” for about a bar or two and then they just blast out with some distortion-driven space rock type stuff. The final track “Loveset” has a droney GYBE feel that morphs into a glitchy techno moment almost like Aphex Twin. Those are only a few examples of the insanity which is DO5.
While I haven’t heard all that much of the band’s earlier output, I can imagine that this is their most advanced work to date. While this is some absolutely adventurous music, I would still say there’s still an accessible quality that I think could appeal to quite a few folks. I wouldn’t recommend making a meal out of a toasted Moog but you can try out this CD for a delectable taste of something a bit different.