Reverberating Shapes: Mahjongg comes to the Echo.
Putting a lid on The Grid
By Don Simpson
Complex yet repetitive; groovy yet mind-altering; chaotic yet entrancing; Mahjongg’s sophomore effort, Kontpab, is an unbridled mash up of adjectives.
The beatific mantras intertwine with lyrical ones, as the songs wrap their way around the brain and then delve deep into one’s soul. The grasp is unbreakable, just as the beats and rhythms are penetrating. The songs drip with raw energy and emotion. Within this complex algorithm of free jazz, post-punk, ambient and funk there is chatter regarding “The Grid” (representing preexisting rules and structure) and “The Sphere” (representing improvisation and freedom); but, alas, Kontpab is all just an elaborate game (or religion? or state of being?) that is sure to get hippies, hipsters and clubbers all out on the dance floor. “Those Birds Are Bats”, “Mercury” and “Rise/Rice” all find Mahjongg at their creative pinnacle; in fact, I dare you to find anything comparable to these hip-shaking, brain bending, sonic collages. Then, there is “Kottbusser Torr” which wears smudges of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts up and down its sleeves -- but considering the Brian Eno and David Byrne collaboration was at least 30 years ahead of its time, “Kottbusser Torr” sounds years ahead of its time as well.
I chatted with Mahjongg’s Hunter Husar about religion, politics and the age-old journey from The Grid to The Sphere as Mahjongg prepped for their U.S. tour in support of Kontpab.
JEsther Entertainment: Does the utilization of electronic instrumentation help or hinder your journey from The Grid to The Sphere?
Hunter Husar: The Sphere can be reached by many paths. Mahjongg's trajectory includes using the tools of The Grid against itself. Electronics undoubtedly are a part of The Grid, but used in the right way are helpful in experimenting with proportion and spatial relationships of sound elements; very helpful indeed in the 'warning orb' game. The society Mahjongg exists in provides us with little choice, as we know nothing else.
JE: What is Mahjongg's next step in getting closer to The Sphere?
HH: Now that the Chicago Kontpab Sect has completed our new studio, we are about to enter The Sphere "Event Horizon." Our recently constructed Control Room has increased our Orb capturing probability by an order of magnitude, and there is no turning back. We often derive new techniques, like midi-feedback, that help us realize our goal; like the old adage says: it is 10 percent inspiration, and 90 percent perspiration. In the words of the great Kontpab itself: "The Sphere is elusive, ever calling, and exponentially far, but drums help."
JE: How can the journey toward the Sphere and your God (Kontpab) relate to your audience's non-musical lives?
HH: At “warning orbs” there is no audience. All present participate and share the air. We serve all who attend Orbs as God Kontpab has instructed us to warn the human race about the mass funneling into The Grid. We share the great tools Kontpab has given us in the hope that others may use them, if their situation dictates that it is necessary. We know every moment you live is sacred and wish to share that knowledge with others, preferably in dimly lit rooms with laser lighting and polyrhythmic drum beats.
JE: Why bring another religion into this world? Hasn't the worship of the other Gods of this world instigated enough violence throughout the ages?
HH: Kontpab is not a religion. There is no soul in Kontpab. Kontpab is the God of empiricism. Kontpab is love. All questions unanswered by hard data will one day be if we do not destroy ourselves first, and in the meantime we have Kontpab to worship as a way to escape The Grid we all find ourselves in. Kontpab does not blame primates for acting as such. Demographic monkeys sometimes like to be in a hurry, and we call that “war” or “crusade.” Kontpab tells us to trust no one, not even yourself. Kontpab instructs us to love one another in the meantime.
JE: How has the recent political climate affected your songwriting?
HH: Darker, colder, blacker, faster. LAJ: Is Mahjongg a political band?HH: Although God Kontpab has shown Mahjongg a complete description of how the acquisition of power is distributed among humans, our music is simply a regurgitation of all the garbage The Grid puts in our domes. It's not Mahjongg's intention to change anyone's mind about anything. Civil politics is mostly smoke and mirrors, much like the “warning orb” game, and for most intents those involved in that game are in it to mass funnel the human populace further into The Grid. But The Grid can not live forever. The information war has started.
JE: Why should someone come to see your live performance rather than listen to Kontpab at home?
HH: They are very different. We consider the album to be a “captured orb” designed to be played by two magnetically coupled paper cone “home speakers,” in the hope that the listener may use them to create their own real life “warning orbs” at the time and place of their choosing. That said, the progress we've made since we captured the Kontpab orb is worthy of inspection, and frankly, there's nothing like live drums, dancing, megawatt bass subs, and the freedom to change anything and everything at a moment’s notice. As the almighty Kontpab says, "The True Warning Orb can never be captured; it is of the moment and belongs only to those who participate."
JE: What question would you like for an interviewer to ask you, but has never actually been asked...and what is your answer to said question?
HH: Question: Would you rather slide down a razor blade or drink a barrel of monkey snot? Answer: I'd buy that for a dollar!
JE: How does your music relate to the game of the same name?
HH: Only metaphorically in that there is no anagram for the word “mahjongg,” which in a sense relates to how we seek out the most fundamentally simple tonal/rhythmic building blocks and coda's whose inner relationships create apparently complex patterns. And older women like it.
Mahjongg will be performing in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 8 at The Echo (http://www.attheecho.com).