June 08, 2005

Mahogany "Memory Column: Early Works and Rarities, 1996-2004"

Once upon a time, in a land called five years ago, there was a little record label called Black Bean and Placenta. Now, this label, it was a bit different than most. It strictly produced records and compact discs--artwork was negligable. It wasn't uncommon for a record's cover to be made out of old record sleeves, and most record sleeves were made from construction paper. The label distributed small, impossible-to-find-elsewhere releases from around the world, specializing in noise, lo-fi and art-rock. Mike Landucci would also offer his records for sale at insane prices--five vinyl records for three bucks? Ah, those were the days.

One of my first purchases from him was a grab-bag bundle of vinyl LP's. Included with this collection of obscure noise-rock was a one-sided twelve-inch EP from a band from New York called Mahogany. As was the case with most Blackbean & Placenta releases, there was very little information about the band other than the name of the songs. Then again, the music was so striking and beautiful, I didn't care. From the gorgeous, beat driven "The Age of Rectangles" and the post-punk dance beat of "Metro," to the deep cello melancholy of "In Fulfillment of the Enthusiastic," I was won over by this band that blended Stereolab-like melodies to such post-punk stylemakers as Factory Records and the Cocteau Twins.

As my fascination grew, so too did my hunt for anything Mahogany related. My next purchase was another vinyl record, this time a split with Auburn Lull, which was apparently their debut record. This time, I was reminded by how much this group sounded like neighbors Windy & Carl, and the song "Ameila No. 2" definitely reminded me of Pale Saints. Other purchases included the dark, brooding "Light Will Deserve a Place"/"Cloudless" single, which definitely had a darker vibe than previous releases, a handful of compilations (including the excellent Solutions & Remedies, released by the then-fledgling Clairecords) and a Spanish EP. Eventually, I wound up collecting most everything Mahogany had released. Even though their newest release, a two-disc singles collection entitled Memory Column: Early Works and Rarities 1996-2004 collects most of these records, I'm still glad to have them compiled on one disc.

See, Mahogany's records made me very happy, in a brooding, dark kind of way. Those years of my torrid obsession with the band, they were dark days for me; I was heartbroken and unhappy with life, and Mahogany's style, though melancholy, also felt reassuring. There's something that attracted me to their music, and I never have figured out why. I don't really think I want to. Maybe it was Andrew Prinz's striking, distinctive artwork? I know that Lorraine Lelis' soft, reassuring singing helped make me feel better during those cold and lonely West Texas nights. Perhaps it was the obscurity that appealed to me; the indie-pop elitist who needed something, anything to make me feel special, to make me feel different from my Modest Mouse and Pavement-loving neighbors. In recent years, I've not given Mahogany the same amount of affection, but Memory Column is like finding a friendly love letter from a boy or girl that broke your heart. It's sad that those days ended, but it's a happy reminder of what made you love them in the first place.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.mahogany.nu
Label Website: http://www.darla.com

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