A strange experience this morning. As I write, I’m listening to what seems to be a perfect recording of the Mountains show I saw last night at Club Uncut. As with a previous tour, which resulted in the superb “Etching” album, Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp rehearsed a new piece for the tour, recorded an early take on it, then produced CD-Rs to sell after each show.
Feels a bit like cheating, really, as if I’m reviewing the album rather than the excellent 40-minute piece that the duo played at the Slaughtered Lamb last night. But that said, it’s not exactly identical: for this tour, Mountains are working without computers, firing up the old time-lag accumulator pedals and building a dense, immersive music live from scratch.
So it begins with melodica and bells to create the requisite low drone tones and cosmic rustle, then gradually accrues momentum through another melodica, a couple of acoustic guitars (including some very deft and fulsome Fahey-ish picking that locates Mountains closer to folk music than the avant-garde, incidentally) and a meticulously deployed whisk; a bit of precise micro-detailing reminiscent of some of Matmos’ live sampling.
The layering that goes on for the next 20 minutes is so intense that any thought of Mountains as an ambient band, or as minimalists, seems pretty laughable. One thing that’s apparent, though, is that even at their noisiest, there’s a highly resilient prettiness to the duo’s music which separates them, to a degree, from some fellow travellers with edgier or more ironised agendas, such as Emeralds, Ducktails or James Ferraro, maybe).
After 20 minutes there’s a gentle hiatus of drones and wave sounds, a quick removal of actual physical layers (jumpers, jackets) as well as metaphorical ones, then they’re off again, rapidly ramping up the acoustic guitar loops into a vigorously aestheticised cacophony that recalls My Bloody Valentine and Seefeel as much as it does more common Mountains reference points like Fennesz and Popol Vuh. Forty minutes, and they’re through. Great show, and it sounded great again just now.
Opening up the night – our first in the crashpad-like environment of The Slaughtered Lamb’s basement – were Pausal, who were fine, too: two men from London sat on the floor with a laptop and a guitar, a few projections on the sheet behind them, playing a blissed, neo-classical kind of ambience that occasionally reminded me of something like The Irresistible Force as well as the hipper reference points I used last time. Thanks to them, Mountains and everyone else who came down for another excellent show.