Mountains: “Choral”

Apologies for yesterday’s grouchy digression. Back to business today, and one of a bunch of new records that have been exciting me over the past week or two.

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Apologies for yesterday’s grouchy digression. Back to business today, and one of a bunch of new records that have been exciting me over the past week or two.

Mountains are a new name to me, though it seems as if the Brooklyn-based duo have released a couple of albums before this one, “Choral”. Obviously, though, reading a press release from Thrill Jockey which cites Fennesz, Brian Eno and Susumu Yokota is going to drag me in pretty fast.

But when the opening title track of “Choral” wafts in, what it reminds me of most is those luxurious, percolating Cluster records like “Zuckerzeit” or “Sowiesoso”, perhaps even the Harmonia records. Of recent records, you could safely file this one alongside the Arp and White Rainbow discs that came out last year.

But Mountains aren’t quite so puritanical as to construct their music entirely from synths and computers. In fact, as these harmonious pieces gradually unravel, there’s a faintly vintage, hand-tooled air to a lot of the music, not least because of the tangible instrumentation that threads through the drones. By the end of the 12-odd minute opening track, there’s a humming Terry Riley organ, and then a passage of solemn and unadorned acoustic guitar, which leads into the gorgeous “Map Table”.

When I wrote about Fennesz’s “Black Sea” the other week, I mentioned how Christian Fennesz’s guitar-playing was becoming more prominent and less treated in places on this set. I mentioned, as is my pathological habit, James Blackshaw. But it strikes me this morning that the comparison is even more relevant to Mountains on “Map Table”, in the way the thoughtful acoustic progressions begin as kind of conservatory kin to the Takoma School, and then gravitate towards something more silvery and unanchored.

“Map Table” for all its distant crackle and phase, would fit rather neatly onto one of Tompkin Square’s “Imaginational Anthems” comps; perhaps a better comparison than Blackshaw might be someone like Greg Davis, who augments his picking with various kosmische electronica.

The guitar continues to pick its way through “Telescope”, and the immersive hum is such here that I keep thinking of, perhaps, Popol Vuh at their most contemplative – “In Den Garten Pharaos”, maybe? By the end, the guitar is starting to strafe, and the inevitable reference point of Michael Rother comes into play, too. But this is a thoroughly engrossing record. I’ve just had a look at their myspace, and there aren’t any new tracks, but the stuff there should give you a clue as to why I’m making a fuss, hopefully.

(Ha! Actually belatedly read to the end of the press release and it mentions Harmonia, Cluster and Popol Vuh. Symbiosis!)


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