by Sam Doucet
It was worth the wait. Empires have risen and crumbled since the last time we were treated to a new Mahogany Frog album, and the eight and a half trips around the sun that have produced Mahogany Frog in the Electric Universe were clearly well spent. Though the four members of Winnipeg’s premier prog rock juggernaut have their hands full with a variety of other artistic projects, the cohesion on display here is that of a band who never let each other out of sight. As with their albums of yesteryear, Mahogany Frog offers a style of prog rock that is not marked by showiness or affectation – but rather an unhurried determination to prod, probe, and unwrap a never-ending series of sounds.
Opener “Theme From P.D.” commands your attention by running through the band’s sonic range. Fluid, multilayered keyboards and a relaxed drumbeat smoothly give way to a funkier, clamorous arrangement. By the end of the fourteen-minute song, a brash, tangled wall of sound underlines beyond all doubt that Mahogany Frog are BACK. On the following number “Psychic Police Force,” the pace is picked up a little, and the addition of some soaring guitar lines provides a lively video game soundtrack-like kick. What’s more, the classic prog fans will appreciate a jumpy, synth-driven breakdown reminiscent of Yes midway through.
With so many sonic elements swarming around these six tracks, another band might get lost in their own ideas. And with songs averaging ten minutes, that same hypothetical band might leave the listener feeling bored. Thankfully, it’s Mahogany Frog delivering the goods here. As alluded to above, at no point on this record are they in a rush. Sudden tempo changes are minimal, with the band opting instead for well-calculated, subtle transitions from one passage to the next. Alternating between the cacophonous and the quiet is not uncommon for them, but those shifts often happen with admirable finesse.
With the closing track “(((Sundog)))” we are treated one last time to a captivating rise and fall – variations of ambient and tranquil psychedelia ebb and flow, before a final burst of dizzying prog seals the deal. Mahogany Frog stand alone in their ability to craft an exploratory and untamed musical experience, and even after a long wait, they remain the perfect tour guides for a trip through the electric universe.