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Kontpab

Mahjongg

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Album Review

Here's the opening sentence of Mahjongg's bio: "As a collective, Mahjongg believe that the body of human knowledge is our most prized asset, and that the harmonic proportions of music are universal in other fields of endeavor." Hoo boy. No reasonable person could come away from that sentence expecting music that's any fun whatsoever. Surprise! Mahjongg's blend of new wave revivalism and Afro-beat reconstruction is really a blast, even when they get longwinded (and as that opening sentence suggests, the band does have a hard time knowing when to shut up). Mahjongg's strengths and weaknesses are both nicely summed up on "Kottbusser Torr," a song that beautifully blends highlife-flavored guitars with a charmingly dated drum sound and intriguingly muttered lyrics — and drags on for about two minutes longer than it should have. Elsewhere, the band sounds like a summit meeting between the Human League and Gang of Four ("Problems"), and goes totally, annoyingly nuts with the old syndrum ("Tell the Police the Truth"). On "Those Birds Are Bats" they deliberately undermine a great, hooky song with crappy sound, and the result is really quite appealing; "Mercury" is the world's most awkward waltz, and "Rise/Rice" is an instrumental that channels Remain in Light-era Talking Heads — and then drags on for about two minutes longer than it should have. The overall effect of this album is both slightly frustrating and deeply intriguing. Not bad at all.

Biography

Formed: 2001 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Mahjongg combine the edgy timber of electronics, the ironic wit and melodic sense of indie rock, and the rhythmic abandon of funk and Afro-beat and fuse them into a smart, dance-friendly sound that's made them one of the more talked-about acts on the bustling Chicago music scene. Mahjongg were formed in Columbia, MO, in 2001 by singer and guitarist Jeff Carrillo and percussionist, keyboard man, and vocalist Hunter Husar. The group wasted no time earning a local reputation, but as Husar told a reporter,...
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Kontpab, Mahjongg
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