Ditching the Holiday Cheer With Mahjongg

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


mahjongg2.jpg

I love holiday music (Kenny Rogers’ Christmas album is a family favorite. Seriously.) as much as the next person, but now that vacation is over, I’m ready to ditch the holiday cheer and get back to music that is rougher around the edges.

Mahjongg, a Chicago-based five-piece, is helping me do just that.

Their latest release, Kontpab, due out at the end of January on Olympia, Washington’s K Records, is a bizarre collection of nine songs that sound like a combination of electronic beeps and bloops from 80s Atari games, the percussive bangings of the Blue Man Group, and robotic drum beats from the 80s band Kraftwerk. Lyrics, usually distorted, are sparse.

Mahjongg’s fixation on electronic instruments, 80s-inspired beats (think New Order’s distant cousin) and difficult-to-understand vocals is as entertaining as it is frustrating. After multiple listens, I’m still confused about what makes this band tick. On their website, band members call the music “tropical, industrial, and minimalist.” They also claim that the “brilliant, controlled bombast” of the songs “keeps you elevated, raking across several strata of dance floor enchantment to sustain the listener in a cocoon of measured propulsion.” I applaud the satire, assuming that such ridiculous comments were meant to mock pretentious rock criticism.

After Pitchfork’s Matt LeMay saw the band open for the Constantines and Pretty Girls Make Graves (great band!) in spring 2005 and then again a year later, he wrote that it was “liberating to let loose and dance like a total stupid asshole without actually feeling like a total stupid asshole,” and encouraged people to see the band live— meaning (I think), it was nice to see a hipster band that opted for dance music over shoe-gazer tunes.

As I ease out of vacation mode and back into reality, Mahjongg’s CD is on heavy rotation, not because I love their music, but because it’s entertaining to hear them taking 80s influences and creating something new and danceable, rather than simply mimicking bands from 20 or 30 years ago.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate