US - Michigan - Full Moon 123 - 10/07/06
In my day job as an editor, I am intimately involved with punctuation marks. Believe me, a well-placed comma or semi-colon can work wonders. However, I have never had a good relationship with the exclamation mark. The staple of email conversations, exclamation marks are often used to indicate how 'fun' and
'wacky' the person writing the email is. Lines of exclamation marks often take the place of saying anything interesting, sprayed at the end of inane phrases to try and ignite lifeless writing.
In the case of the new album by Mahogany, I think that exclamation mark at the end of the title is absolutely appropriate. Around half of the music on Connectivity! is unashamed in its joyous, extroverted nature, revelling in the energy and pace of modern life. When there's so much war and suffering
and disaster in the world, can't we celebrate the small miracles too? Connectivity! is truly a small miracle.
The first four songs make it clear that this is a band who have developed fresh colours with their sound. Better still, they've received the help of Robin Guthrie with the production. As can be heard on The Dream of a Modern Day and Memory Column, Andrew Prinz and Robert Pietrusko are a dab hand in the studio, but on Connectivity! they've truly excelled themselves, creating a rich, kaleidoscopic opus that demands repeated listens.
Opener "Tesselation, Formerly Plateau One" is majestic in its execution. With the trademark Mahogany sound of "massed guitar, violoncelli, voice & electronics" (as mentioned on the sleeve of Memory Column) furthered enhanced by a booming bassline and martial drums, "Tesselation" is positively euphoric, and makes for a striking start to the album. The upbeat tempo is maintained through the propulsive "The View From The People Wall" and "One Plus One Equals Three or More" with their fantastic basslines, and the spacey electro of "Supervitesse".
Then there's the delightful respite of the chiming, wistful "Mantissa", before the absurdly upbeat "Neo-plastic Boogie-woogie". This song is such a pure hit of pop ecstasy that my immediate knee-jerk reaction was to recoil in horror, but once you get over the fact that it sounds a little bit too close to Belle & Sebastian for comfort, it's impossible not to love it. Thankfully it's followed by the droning instrumental 'Windmill International A', just to bring your blood sugar levels back down.
With "Renovo" the album reaches its high point, and this watershed of excellence is maintained through "Domino Ladder Beta" and "My Bed Is My Castle" (great title). "Renovo" is eerily similar to "Echo's Answer" by Broadcast, but this is a very good thing. Synth drones and washes, atmospheric strings and a ghostly vocal line make for a truly spine-tingling four minutes. "Domino Ladder Beta" is like a less-dirgey Cure, with loads of wonderful '80s FX slathered over all the instruments. "My Bed Is My Castle" is just genius, plain and simple.
Now, if the album had ended there, it would be perfect. That's not to say that "Springtime, Save Our Country" isn't a nice song - it sounds like a stripped-down Cocteau Twins - but as the climax to such a wonderful album it doesn't feel quite right. In time I may change my mind, but for now my feeling is that if the album had just ended with "My Bed Is My Castle" my jaw would still be on the floor.
I listened to this album straight through three times when I first heard it. I haven't done that with an album for a long time. That's how good Connectivity! is. It's lush, fun, moving, catchy, complex, and will no doubt be up there as one of my favourite albums of 2006.
Copyright © 2006 Tim Clarke