This is the seventh studio of the band from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and this one was six years in the birthing. It represents a departure from the trodden path of Mahogany Frog but the results are outstanding and intoxicating.
The band was founded in 1998 when Graham Epp and Jesse Warkentin teamed up with bassist Nathan Loewen. The next year, drummer Jean-Paul Perron joined them bringing his expertise in looping and sampling with him. What started in psychedelia continued through the realms of krautrock even as new members Shaun Mason (bass), Jordan Perry (keyboards) and Mike Spindloe (sax) joined and Loewen departed. Scott Ellenberger would replace Mason on bass in 2003. Eventually, Andy Rudolph would replace Peron on drums and give us the line-up for In the Electric Universe: Epp, Warkentin, Ellenberger, and Rudolph.
In the Electric Universe is both a departure and a fulfilment of all that has gone before for Mahogany Frog.
Theme from P.D. opens the album and the often-hidden melody is surrounded by intense and intriguing soundscapes and loops with cool keyboards and rhythms. It is a tasty introduction to the whole album. CUbe then sees the development of the riveting rhythms with a cooler, heavier display of what Ozric Tentacles or the Chemical Brothers once pronounced. The ever-shifting waves of sound with some captivating hooks and a blistering groove makes you immediately want to rediscover their catalogue for yourself.
(((Sundog))) is an adventure in loops and detached harmonic riffs. The keyboards and guitars are expansive and wide-ranging. Sundogs are colored spots of light that develop due to the refraction of light through ice crystals. They are located approximately 22 degrees either left, right, or both, from the sun, depending on where the ice crystals are present. I have seen the event twice and it has always been on a bitterly cold morning. This song of the same name is a marvelous sonic depiction of the occurrence with cold them and symmetrical rhythms. Brilliant.
Psychic Police Force begins with a sonic psionic blast that evokes an image of sirens. It turns into a furiously exciting and memorable melodic line with smoking hot rhythms and changes. There are great hooks scattered throughout the track. It is followed by Floral Flotilla (Sail to Me My Love in Your…) with more lyrical lines but as fascinating as anything on the album. The vocal intonations are abstract but mix in so well with the instrumental excursions. The distorted guitar passages are raw but still harness come beautifully harmonic phrases.
The album concludes with Octavio (Including: The Ascension of the Moonrise Children) and may be the most melodic piece on the CD. The rhythms are straightforward and the melodies are excellent. After an abstract interlude, the melodic lines bring the album towards it conclusion.
Mahogany Frog’s In the Electric Universe is brilliant—both entertaining and enlightening. One thing is certain—amidst all the virtuosity and complexity, they never lose is their playful intelligence. This is an album to be relished without expectations. Just let it happen.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl