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Mahogany - Memory Column

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Artist: Mahogany

Album: Memory Column

Label: Darla

Review date: Aug. 11, 2005

After all these years, Mahogany can still transport me back to the Detroit scene of the late ’90s. The voices are reminiscent of His Name is Alive, while the strummed guitars and hazy production are pure dreampop, like one-time Burnt Hair labelmates Windy & Carl or Fuxa. Present-day bands such as Landing have a few things in common as well, though Mahogany's electronic leanings and Joy Division influence do place them somewhat to the side.

This rather sprawling 2-CD release brings together 20 songs from various singles and compilations, with all of the pros and cons of such a collection. That said, the division of the release into "Song Cycle No. 1 for Rural Michigan" on one disc and "Song Cycle No. 2 for Detroit and New York" helps bring some cohesion, and the ordering of the songs shows proper attention to crafting a careful flow.

Nonetheless, about two-thirds of the way through the first CD, I felt that I'd perhaps had enough of a reasonably good thing. While the band have no doubt grown sick long ago of phrases like "reverb-soaked," as well as comparisons to the original shoegazers, there's obviously no escaping their references. The droning keyboards and clattering percussion of songs like "The Age of Rectangles" clearly show, however, that the band had its own take on things.

Given the second CD's subtitle, you might expect a heavier, more "urban" side, but that's not exactly the case. While "Mindful Contradiction" conjures a Kraftwerkian mechanical feel, it's still soft on the inside, and filled with pillows of reverb. "Light Will Deserve a Place" returns to a lethargic type of Stereolab strum and pulse, though "Wagon-Lits" and "Semaphore Streamlines" do pull themselves out of the caverns and into a slightly harder-edged warehouse.

Those looking to trance out to soft sounds will find a lot to like here, but the slow pace can take its toll. Oddly enough the music's strong points – a consistent vision and careful composition – may turn out to be its weak points as well. The smooth polish and consistent atmosphere make it easy for the songs to blend together and lose their individual character. While that says something positive for a collection of singles and compilation tracks, it makes for a long listen over the two CDs.

By Mason Jones

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