Hungarian artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy made a career out of bending shapes and capturing interested points of view on muted pallets of grey and brown. In the same way, the San Francisco by-way-of Berlin trio Moholy-Nagy seems to focus less on color and more on a unique vision. Spacious, yet refined, their debut effort Like Mirage taps into the foreign places of independent music, while still keeping a foot in the door to the more accessible patterns of rock.
However, any meaningful scripting is lost in translation between repetitive looping and a lack of color. Without a vocalist, the burden of writing a compelling album fell on just the instruments, and they simply don’t measure up. More often than not, each delay-buzzing guitar or quirky synthesizer is stuck playing background music while nothing takes the foreground. Basically, Moholy-Nagy made an entire album of solid intros. As far as those intros go the record is impressive (keyboards bubbling around woozy home-made guitar tones), but any color quickly fades at the realization that little is happening otherwise; the noises are just repeated and repeated with a few layers added in. Although friendly to the ears, a lot of the tracks are monotonous and droning (sans a couple riffs courtesy of an Indian sounding noise-maker), but once those sounds get old, the album seems fit for an elevator in some bureaucratic office in Bangalore.
Not to say the whole album is this way. In their more upbeat moments (“Brute Neighbors,” “Migratory Birds”), Moholy-Nagy strays from the monotonous, but even so, those tracks are comparable to the throwaway cuts on a Minus The Bear album. Much like the man from whom they took their name, their point of view does have intriguing elements, but their music lacks any real substance. Like Mirage is a frustrating effort. From a band backed with bright minds and a bunch of gnarly tones, their baroque sound could pound more, evolve more, and ultimately mean more, but it doesn’t.
Eternal Tapestry – Beyond the 4th Door
Origamibiro – Cracked Mirrors and Stopped Clocks
Reigns – We Lowered a Microphone Into the Ground
Stream: Moholy-Nagy – “Brute Neighbors”