Mammoth Grove, Mammoth Grove: The Groove Gets Naked

There’s something unassuming about Mammoth Grove’s Mammoth Grove EP. Tracked completely live in one session and released by the band in conjunction with Lazyman Records, the five-track offering has a humble, soft psychedelia to it, vaguely indie, but altogether more grooving and without the lofty apathetic posturing that seems to make up so much of the fashionista scene. Mammoth Grove is raw, and one can hear in listening the room that an organ or some other manner of psych swirling might fill, but that’s also part of the appeal of the release – where so much psychedelia is hell bent on lush noise and sounds so full they border on overwhelming, this Canadian trio has been able to affect a soothing and natural atmosphere with just guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Their material isn’t especially complex, but it has a calming effect that works well with the organic-mindedness the band shows in their name and in closing duo “Black Ocean” and “Deep Cove.”

Opener “Generation” (which is listed second on the CD) immediately links Mammoth Grove to a late-‘60s feel with the lines, “It’s about that time again/A generation’s sick of war again.” Guitarist/vocalist Devan Forster never really goes into full-on fuzz with his tone, but his bluesy lead work is both technically fascinating and grooving, and his voice, free of any discernable effects apart perhaps from some reverb, is well balanced in the songs. He clearly strains his voice in singing “Mammoth Grove,” reaching for some of the notes, but given that the EP is live and given the overall mood of the tracks, it works.

The unnamed rhythm section behind him mostly follows the riff, but add some character to it as well, as in “Mammoth Grove”’s more rocking bridge. Where much of the song is sedate, that bridge sets up the semi-shuffle of “Hunted,” which has a more active riff and finds Forster in a vocal duet with an unnamed guest. The fact that they don’t say who it is or who they are – even Forster’s name isn’t given on the disc – speaks not only to a lack of ego, but also to the idea that Mammoth Grove’s Mammoth Grove is supposed to be more about the music than the people making it, and given the flow of these five songs, my inclination is to just follow them for the ride.

It’s not a disc that begs for hard-analysis as much as for repeated casual, relaxed listens. “Hunted,” however, does make an appropriate centerpiece, with both the added vocals and what seems like it will be Forster’s best solo until “Black Ocean” comes on, leading directly into closer “Deep Cove” in what’s basically an introduction. “Deep Cove” starts off with some wah strum and blues-laden swagger, but ultimately winds up affecting a graceful build over the course of its six minutes, ending the EP on a satisfying chorus that’s also the most memorable Mammoth Grove have on offer.

The back of the sleeve the CD comes in has a note that reads, “This EP sounds best loud with open ears and an open mind,” and while I definitely agree Mammoth Grove should be approached with an open mind (and open ears too, I guess, if you want to hear it), the volume feels like less of a requirement here than for some releases. Even at low levels, Mammoth Grove’s ambience comes across, and where blasting it, you might lose some of that sedate, Dead Meadow-type groove, the space in the music allows it to be appreciated either way. Plans are reportedly already in the works for a follow-up, and I look forward to hearing how Mammoth Grove begin to develop as a band.

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