Wind rising, then metal clicking on metal. Is that a gun being loaded, or are you just glad to see me? Mahjongg remind me of a moment in time, 1978-1982, when a lot of us whiteass, funkass, bitchass artpunks discovered that we could take funk and make it into a new sound, or at least imagine it as a wonderful life just out of reach, to chase after, potentially anywhere. Not that I want to burden the Mahjonggskyists with my past, since they don’t sound old. But given that punkfunk never jelled into the future noise we’d dreamed of, the Mahjonggians raise hopes: new bends and twists. Telegraph keys played like thumb pianos. Circular motion, while the guitars sputter and sparkle in anticipation of a prison breakout. A dance that’s different from hip-hop, house, techno, country. A riot of our own.
Think of Mahjongg’s Machinegong EP as achieving something like dub but through a reverse process: Dub took out a lot of the song parts, whereas Mahjongg start with parts but then barely sketch the song or chant that might arise from those parts. It’s as if they’d decided, “Let’s take the music down to where we don’t know it.” So we’re hearing “could be” rather than “this is.” But Mahjongg’s got a great sense of form, so they come across as suggestive rather than half-baked.
Their funk’s got whiteboy roughness, which in their case strengthens the music: They’ll give you the unadorned beauty of rhythm and timbre, but the music’s pushiness means that instead of our going, “Ah, this is a beautiful sound. [Pause] Um, what’s for lunch?” we simply hear it knocking about our cafeteria, just another element in the world’s overall clatter. Beauty without beauty marks. The joy of not trying to get it right.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2004