For the past decade, NYC's Moonjune Records has presided almost singlehandedly over the renaissance of progressive rock in the modern era. From various permutations of the Soft Machine personnel to the expansive explorations of Italy's D.F.A. and Arti & Mestieri, the vocal acrobatics of Boris Savoldelli to Allan Holdsworth's fiery guitar to unexpected Indonesian fusion, label head Leonardo Pavkovic has proven unafraid of breaking down borders to stump for this often maligned genre.
One of the label's most fascinating discoveries has been Mahogany Frog, a Winnipeg-based ensemble that weaves the inspirations of Italian prog, classic Soft Machine, and the mind-boggling metric jumps of Mahavishnu. Senna, the band's sixth album and their second for Moonjune, is both a celebration of prog's notorious excess and the kind of virtuosic display that has been missing from the horizon for too long in these days of DIY minimalism. (And no, I don't know why the album is named for a natural laxative; use your imagination...)
This is not a quiet music, certainly not dinner party fare. The quacking, crushing guitar assaults, twittering keyboards, outright drum mayhem and multi-layered compositions either call for deep, pinpoint listening or your favorite form of chemical indulgence. The Froggers don't just stick to the tried-and-true sounds of prog's seventies heyday, but mix in hip-hop and electronica references that fit will with the current vibe of international music. Their humorous side is reflected in the uplifting "Flossing with Buddha" while the two-part "Message from Uncle Stan" recalls the 1960s sitar infatuation; "Saffron Myst" is very contemporary, "Expo '67" as retro as its title. "Aqua Love Ice Cream Delivery Service" is like a love note surreptitiously slipped to Yes behind the trig teacher's back.
All in all, Senna holds a lot of pleasure for prog-heads, guitar fans and those who love their music as loud and ostentatious as possible. This is the pure joy of sound.