The last time I wrote about Mountains, the sole comment I received at the bottom of the blog read, “No offense dude, but that review was kind of useless” – a warning maybe, not to try it again.

The last time I wrote about Mountains, the sole comment I received at the bottom of the blog read, “No offense dude, but that review was kind of useless” – a warning maybe, not to try it again.

And a fair point, probably, but whatever. Last week a new album arrived from Mountains that confirms the duo as one of the best kosmische/deep listening groups operating in the states right now. There’s a glimpse of this on “Map Table”, the Mountains track we included on the “Seeing For Miles” comp that came free with the current issue of Uncut (thanks again for all the kind words about that, by the way). But “Etching” showcases their strengths much better, being a rippling, micro-detailed but expansive single piece which lasts around 38 minutes.

Apparently, “Etching” originally surfaced, in a slightly different form, as a limited edition CDR sold at gigs. The press release claims, also, that it’s a live recording, though closer reading reveals it’s not a gig performance (though many of their subsequent gigs were apparently based on this model), but a piece recorded “in Brendon’s studio. The whole recording is in real time with no overdubs.”

In other words, I guess it’s a studio jam, but one that unravels at such a composed and meditative pace that you’d be hard-pressed, as silvery acoustic guitar lines thread a path through the general enveloping hum, to identify it as such. Instead, “Etching” feels a lot like a culmination of what Mountains were shooting for on “Choral” from earlier this year.

Consequently, a lot of the references I wheeled out last time are still relevant; Cluster’s “Sowiesoso”, Popol Vuh; contemporaries like White Rainbow (who has a new one on Kranky I should write about, actually) and Arp. This time, though, the drift is definitely towards ambience, and so you could also see them as fellow travellers of this (necessarily) nebulous new school of new age thing which seems to be coalescing around people like James Ferraro.

And as it gracefully, stealthily reaches some pretty elevated, ecstatic peaks, “Etching” also reminds me of one of my favourite records in this vein, Growing’s “Soul Of The Rainbow And The Harmony Of Light”. The sort of record that seems to be ideal background music, but has an insidious presence that gradually looms into the foreground and becomes unignorable – significantly powerful, even – as it progresses. Must be amazing live, I think.