Mahogany Frog - Senna (Moon June Records)
DL/CD/LP
Out Now

Winnipeg, Canada is home to some tremendous music, including legendary local “prog” rock outfit Mahogany Frog. Chris Hearn takes a vacation with their latest release, Senna.

Okay, I admit it; I’m stumped again on the issue of classification. When it comes to prog rock I’m rather in the dark. I don’t know what “prog” really means. Progressive? In what way? Well, Mahogany Frog tends to be labelled prog rock (among other things) but it’s a fine, fine album no matter what you want to label it. It’s dreamy, spacey, eclectic, experimental, weird and wonderful, which apparently is what prog rock can be. So, I would say Mahogany Frog is doing a bang up job of it then!

When I look at the instruments the guys in the band play I have no clue what to make of half of it either. Here it is:

Graham Epp: electric guitars, MicroMoog, Farfisa Organ, Farf Muff, ARP String Ensemble, Korg MS2000, electric and acoustic pianos

Jesse Warkentin: electric guitars, MicroMoog, Farfisa Organ, Farf Muff, ARP String Ensemble, Korg MS2000, electric and acoustic pianos

Scott Ellenberger: electric and acoustic bass, Briscoe organ, percussion

Andy Rudolph: drums, percussion & electronics

What the hell is a Farf Muff??? Where are these people getting these things?! So far it may seem that I don’t know much. But what is clear to me, both by listening to the album and looking at this list, is that we have four very talented people on our hands. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: multi-instrumentalists, who can pick up seemingly anything and play it, impress me. These guys impress me.

As their label says: “Lush with soaring synth-scapes, waves of blistering guitar feedback and sound-art segments consisting of field recordings, tape collage and analogue electronically-generated sounds…” Exactly. I wish I had written it. I have to say I like the “art” classification better than the “prog” classification. To me, this is art. This is pure creativity. It’s beautiful, it’s surreal, it’s interesting and I like it.

 

The 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s all get revisited, rejuvenated and almost reinvented on Senna. Sounds are pulled out of everywhere and anytime. ‘Expo ‘67’ rocks pretty good, with some very cool intro wonkery and a ton of interesting sounds, including some nice, raw guitar and bass stuff. ‘Saffron Myst’ is a very 70s sci fi sounding piece that I like quite a lot. I wonder which park the opening bird tweets on ‘Flossing with Buddha’ were recorded in? They nicely set the tone to what again is a very 70s sound. At least to me it is. It’s almost like a part of a soundtrack of a movie featuring a lot of guys with big mustaches jogging. At the same time, it’s rather organic, earthly and warm, like a sweater…on a guy with a big mustache who is jogging.

I guess that’s the thing about this album, it can take your mind anywhere. It’s all instrumental, no vocals. Feel free to add your own in your head though. Listening to this album is like travelling without leaving home. It takes one anywhere in the world or to any decade just by pushing buttons only it has access to in the brain. I suppose Senna is a music odyssey of sorts. I suppose that really is what art is about anyway. It’s about how it makes you feel and think. Maybe?

All of the songs are good, I won’t lie to you. This is a solid, well done, well produced, quality album that impresses me. Ya, I still don’t know about this whole classification thing. If you like listening to talented people creating interesting sounds using keyboards, guitars, drums, tape machines, and whatever else they use (including a Farf Muff), then you will like this. If you like brain travel, this is the album for you. If you like weird, (yet accessible and stylish) music made with passion and flair, this is for you, plain and simple.

Unfortunately, I missed Mahogany Frog’s release party for this album. Fortunately, someone took the liberty of recording the whole thing and put it up on YouTube. If you have 70 minutes, check it out!

 

You can visit Mahogany Frog at their official webpage, Facebook, bandcamp, Soundcloud, YouTube and their label’s website.

Words by Chris Hearn. More writing by Chris on Louder Than War can be found here. 

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