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  • xaviergelard

Maohee : a drug story

Dernière mise à jour : 12 janv. 2022

Live at Yoshiwara was designed to show on record what the band could actually achieve in a live situation. As such, Camille Petit and myself decided to ask the musicians of the band if they wanted to contribute material for this one-off project, as we used to write all music of the discs. Soon Alexis Collin presented us this tune, which I immediately fell in love with, as I felt it could channel most of the power and the rhythmic interplay of the band.

The tune is in a 6/8 time signature, with occasional 7/8 riffs, and showcases Alexis' use of the accordion in a organ-like style, with much emphasis on the bass tones and a real work around orchestration.

The title of the track itself comes from the novel Metropolis, written by Thea Von Harbou which served as the basis for the 1927's movie of the same name. It is the name of the strange drug that the Yoshiwara's regulars take to feel a very strong connection, as the novel says in this dialogue between two charachters named Slim and September, the proprietor of the Yoshiwara club :

"What is that: Maohee?" asked Slim, irritably. September drew his head down between his shoulders. (...)

"You don't know what Maohee is...Not a soul in the great Metropolis knows...No...Nobody. But here in Yoshiwara they all know." (...)

"Drugs, I expect, September--?"

"My dear sir, the lion is also a cat. Maohee is a drug: but what is a cat beside a lion? Maohee is from the other side of the earth. It is the divine, the only thing--because it is the only thing which makes us feel the intoxication of the others."

"The intoxication--of the others...?" repeated Slim, stopping still.


When they're intoxicated with the drug, the people in the crowd begin to invoke Maohee as a god-like figure, which chose to "descend" into one of the participant's mind. As such, he is the one who feel the power of everyone else's intoxication, and is not himself anymore for a while. It is a transcendant experience, shamanic in a way, a possession-like trance.

The track efficiently translates this feeling by making the band act as one musician, with powerfuls ostinato conveyings all of the members of the band on one rhythmic figure, which grows and grows before exploding.

The track was an apt choice to really open the disc after the "Yoshiwara's theme" introduction ; it sums up what the record is all about, an invocation of sort of a non-existent place, a ghostly room, where to play and listen to the music. Not ghostly in a menacing way : we all do go to a certain place in our mind and heart when we listen or play music ; it is an embodiement, an "incarnation" of this room.

Funnily enough, when I composed Yoshiwara's theme, I wasn't aware of Alexis' composition ; I was amazed to discover that the two musical pieces shared a suite of musical chords that you can hear after the 4'48 mark of the track. You'll also find this musical suite in Funus Imaginarium, but that story is for later.

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