The proceedings start off weird and whimsical with banjo and Dr. Who rocketship synth – not your typical instrumentation. And that’s what makes Moga interesting. Friendly front-porch banjo and guitar picking throughout, but with a deliciously subversive psychedelic glaze with little outer space touches, and Oliver Williams’ vocal style, reminiscent at times of early Brian Eno. Or at least, that’s the way it begins.
There’s a touch of Beatles (“Norwegian Wood” popped into my mind) in “The One That Got Away.” Besides The Beatles, Grateful Dead, and Brian Eno, there’s a plethora of other influences, so expertly assimilated that while you’ll catch a brief whiff like a vague scent wafting in the air, ultimately Moga is wonderfully unique.
The sleepy nursery rhyme riff in “Wakey Wakey” really gets stuck inside your head, and some serious space music transitions it into the crazy caribbean-flavored “Red Box,” a mind-melting gumbo of seemingly discordant parts – banjo picking, a little Grateful Dead here, some calypso percussion there – and yet it sounds just right.
“Pray For Rain” juxtoposes light and fanciful honky-tonk piano, doo-wop/folky harmonies, and guitar pickin’ with a narrative that starts with a sweet story about the rain and ends with the tragic tale of a young child’s drowning. “Little Darling” is bluesy with a touch of southern gospel and more of those oddly misplaced but perfect doo-wop vocals. “Billy Pen Blues” continues with a soulful shuffle. It’s as if a totally different band walked into the middle of the album.
The start of “Emmaline” made me burst out laughing with its goofy whistling and 50’s-style harmonies, and then the Tin Pan Alley honky-tonk piano, and in comes the trombone… ah man! Crazy, playful and sweet. It might have come out of a different era, were it not for this vague swirling… something in the background midway through.
If I were to tell you: banjo, guitar, synth, piano, bells, wood block, trombone, southern gospel, 60s pop, 70s space music, calypso, honky-tonk… you might be like “wtf?” but it’s the way in which these various elements come drifting in and out in sometimes startling and surprising ways, yet at the same time blending together so perfectly, that makes this album a masterpiece. Totally schizophrenic. And wonderful.
Meandering guitar riffing in “Wakey Wakey (Reprise)”, dissolves into a noisy gathering before slowly coming back to the music and then returning to the multiple conversations. Nutty, but again, it all melds together quite well. The party continues into “Ragtime Jamboree” which is exactly as it sounds; more of that superb barroom piano, tambourine and end-of-the-night, bluesy vocals. And of course, what were we missing? The trombone. Naturally. A little guitar picking and more percussion gets added to the mix as the party wears on. So good. It finishes off with a crazy band intro., and I sincerely hope this wasn’t really a live performance, as the chatting never stops!
One reviewer said “If you ever wanted a to hear a folk record produced by Brian Eno…” I would add to that “in the jungles of Tahiti, during a New Orleans-style funeral parade, on pleasant hallucinogens.” That should give you a clear picture.
Best news of all: they’ve got three upcoming shows in the Boston area:
Dec. 22 (Wed) @ the Middle East (Up? Down? not sure, check back & I’ll list it)
Jan. 15 (Sat) @ the Plough & Stars
Feb. 18 (Fri) @ All Asia Cafe
Note: these are tentative dates until I can confirm with more details.
Moga is: Greg Mallozzi (guitar), Alex Pendergrass (keyboards), Max Fisher (drums), and Oliver Williams (guitar, lead vocals)