Mahogany Frog is a quartet of four gents involved in severe hybridizing to various degrees and capacities, but what they're doing isn't easily classified. The DO5 material is progressive but not in the usual classical sense, more a conflation of a number of areas moshed together in alternating noiseuring, recognizable structures, and occasional mellifluity. T-Tigers & Toasters gives the best overall demonstration. Starting out very slowly and airily in keyboard melodics, it builds into a scarring guitar distorto fest that transmutes into hard rock extensions with jazz overtones before descending into maelstrom after maelstrom.
There's a category for this—art damage—and it's a difficult style to write and perform. Mike Keneally was deeply into it, Creedle put out an obscure little masterpiece (Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars), Mike Patton's a master of the form, and there have been a number of attempts to incorporate the quirky jagged mode over the last decade or so, Mars Volta perhaps the best known among such practitioners. As might be expected, coherency is an elastic commodity in such endeavors, so you can expect…whoa! even Ennio Morricone emulations (Last Stand at Fisher Farm)!
The MoonJune label isn't known for clinging to secure boundaries, so it was the logical choice to trot out a release so oddly straddling experimentalism with classicalistic notions and mutated stratospheric conventions. The two keyboardists, Graham Epp and Jesse Warkensten, also wield guitars, and you never know from moment to moment just what they're going to pull off...which is half the puzzling fun of the outfit. Just when you think you have 'em wired either as acolytes of one camp or another, they turn a 180 and sprint in the opposite direction. Hence, grandeur and prime-era heavy prog ring out on the one hand, weird jazzy broken electronica on the other.
To get your bearings, start with Demon Jigging Spoon (great title!) and then work your way through the rest. Spoon contains enough of a Crimson / distorted Sebastian Hardy / Finch flavor to it that it'll snag the most jaded ears, tuning that pair of inflow organs up to new horizons. One warning, though: 'art damage' is a mode that hasn't yet figured out what the rules and parameters are, so no one's risen above the small klatsch to point the way. Patton has by far emerged as tentative hetman, but Mahogany Frog is making peace with all the antecedents, content to obey certain architectures while savaging a host of hallowed outlays. Trust nothing, just listen, and be prepared to have your preconceptions biffed up a bit.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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