Dusted Reviews

Mahjongg - Machinegong

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Mahjongg

Album: Machinegong

Label: Cold Crush

Review date: Feb. 1, 2004

There’s not much to your average Mahjongg song. A metronomic drum beat, a broken synth whining out the same two or three notes, a mangled pair of guitar chords giving way to another mangled pair of guitar chords, and maybe some pithy vocal couplets for the attentive listener. They employ a decidedly simple sound that resembles, more than anything else, a dub version of a noise rock track minus two or three instruments. And this would be one of their more elaborate songs; their debut EP, Machinegong, opens with “’intro,’” comprised only of twelve seconds of tape hiss. Whether they mean that song as a sincere introduction or not, the quotation marks around the name make a good point – if asked to describe what Mahjongg’s all about or give a representative sample of just what they do, one can only shrug. Which is not to say that the music is hard to describe, simply that we’re best served by not dwelling on those kinds of details for too long.

Split between Chicago, Portland, and Columbia, MO, the five members of Mahjongg apparently share a common love of percussion and – to judge by their website and promotional materials – found art. The EP has elements of both. Not only do waves of electronic noise capture common ambient racket – the equivalent of found art, I propose – but the vocals also suggest the mottled fidelity of an aged recording. And while there’s only one drummer, the entire band strives for a percussive style. “Countdown (the chicken)” gets entirely different beats from the drums, bass, and keyboard, while “Aluminum” features a frantic guitar line that steps up a three-note sequence in a race with the drum kit. “(Bishop) Desmond Tutu,” which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with the Nobel Peace Prize winner save for his name being screamed at the beginning, even chops a sampled voice into a two-second clip that loops over and over to close the song. They try the same thing with their own vocals: the line about “running in place with the human race” was used on “Jamdek” because of the clever pun, sure, but also because of the meter.

Perhaps Machinegong falls into the realm of dance music – or “dance punk,” if you insist on precision in your hair-splitting genre names – but somehow dancing seems beside the point here, if it isn’t beside the point all the time, really. True, “Turf War,” the final song on Machinegong, has a bracing, resounding beat that you could jump up and down to if you were really pressed to move along to the music, but I expect that you could experience that beat pulsing through you just as well sitting perfectly still on a bar stool. Or perhaps I am just defending my own refusal to do anything at concerts but stand with my arms folded. Which highlights once again the elemental nature of the songs on this album; a listener can do pretty much anything with them – play them at a party, listen to them on headphones after work, or annoy the neighbors by working out the bass tabs. Fun though the album may be, it’s pretty much of the moment and then gone. This leaves very little to praise, but then again something as visceral as Machinegong wasn’t designed to draw praise, anyway.

By Tom Zimpleman

Other Reviews of Mahjongg

RaYDONcoNG 2005


The Long Shadow of the Paper Tiger

Read More

View all articles by Tom Zimpleman

Find out more about Cold Crush

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.