Not an immediately familiar name, perhaps, but Koen Holtkamp might be more familiar, at least to regular readers, if we described him as one half of Mountains, a New York-based duo that I’ve written about a fair bit here in the last year or so.

Not an immediately familiar name, perhaps, but Koen Holtkamp might be more familiar, at least to regular readers, if we described him as one half of Mountains, a New York-based duo that I’ve written about a fair bit here in the last year or so.



“Gravity/Bees” is, I must confess, the first Holtkamp solo record I’ve heard, and shouldn’t come as too much of a culture shock to those of you who’ve dug Mountains albums like “Choral” and, especially, last year’s rendering of a live set, “Etching”. In fact, some unusually specific and thorough biographical notes that came with my download reveal that the first of the two new tracks, “In The Absence Of Gravity…” is “A side-long piece based around a 2008 solo performance in Brighton.” Holtkamp, it seems, used a system “somewhat inspired by Terry Riley‘s ‘time-lag accumulator’ pieces” – much like the intricate loops and delays he and Brendon Anderegg employed at their Club Uncut show last year, then mixed the live recording with more studio work.

“The work,” it says here, “is built mainly around processed acoustic guitar, analog synthesizers, and electronics but also incorporates recordings of harmonica, electric organ, small percussion objects, and an unlikely glass of ginger ale.”

The results, as Mountain fans might expect, is a very graceful 15 minute piece which gradually builds in density and intensity as it goes along. Predictably, there’s a droning ambient aspect to “Gravity”, though once again it feels very organically constructed, quite different from a lot of the kosmische-inspired music around at the moment, the Michael Rotherish electric guitar climax notwithstanding.

Listening again this morning on the way to work, it struck me that there are actually quite a lot of affinities with the more gaseous end of post-rock, beyond the self-consciously verbose title: the slow build and restrained, aesthetic climax have a little of Mogwai’s “New Paths To Helicon”, maybe?

The second track on “Gravity/Bees” was created using a different, studio-based methodology, though it also seemed to involve some pretty radical close micing of bees inside a hive which, given the way of these things, isn’t immediately detectable amid the general pleasing drone of “Loosely Based On Bees”. Instead, the synths are more dominant here: I’d possibly cite Tangerine Dream as well as a contemporary like Oneohtrix Point Never, though there’ a granular texture there, too (the bees?).

The structure, though, isn’t superficially dissimilar to that of “Gravity”, which means the last section comes with another hefty layer of electric guitar, more frictional this time, and reminiscent (thanks John) of Robert Fripp on “No Pussyfooting”. Hard to write about this stuff without being ethereal and woolly or referential/technical, but good stuff, all the same.