Mountains MountainsAir Museum
Of all the projects that, in the last few years, have been playing with the aesthetic of drone and that endless flow of monochrome sound, it’s been Mountains who, quite possibly, have approached the idea of warmth the most. Maybe because they’ve never consciously been constructing drones –on the first LPs, “Mountains” (2005) and “Sewn” (2006), recorded for their own label Apestaartje, the sound was grainy rather than granite, and, still, you could perfectly distinguish the acoustic instruments that gave them that inherent folk quality, and the field recordings feel that dominated the most electronic spectrum of their sound–, Mountains surprise us now with this “Air Museum”, which secures their contract with Thrill Jockey. They surprise us, because it’s an album with a more rigid structure and a more hypnotic effect, giving a twist to what they had already achieved on “Choral” (2009), an underground best-seller full of organ sounds, earthy guitars and flying synths.
According to Thrill Jockey, the new nuances heard on “Air Museum” are down to two drastic changes in the recording process. First of all, Koen Holkamp and Brendon Anderegg have come out of their home studio and worked in a professional recording studio for the first time, where they made good use of the equipment that multiplied the possibilities of finding frequencies and textures useful to them for their space trip. In second place, the acoustic instruments, which were always there –a trail in the wood formed by the guitars, leading to John Fahey’s cabin while he was listening to a Brian Eno record, sitting on the porch– are no longer processed with the computer –which make them sound cleaner–, but with synthesisers and analogue pedals: they surface, therefore, sharper and more deformed, up to the point where it’s impossible to hear if the original source of a sound is acoustic or synthetic. Therefore, everything on “Air Museum” sounds like a big seventies modular synth of which they’ve maximised all possibilities, with the trademark exciting refulgence of Mountains. It might be the duo’s most ecstatic album, even when their previous efforts –including the vinyl releases “Mountains Mountains Mountains” and “Etching”– were already so useful for experiencing extra-corporal situations.
On compositions such as “Thousand Square” and “Sequel”, the change is the most obvious: they beat with slow pulses of German cosmic music, as if Mountains were seduced by Tangerine Dream most meditative moments. But the similarity is casual, adding character and epic, without ever sounding unlike themselves, for example, the gliding minutes of “Blue Lanterns Of East Oxford” and “January 17”, vibrant drones that grow and expand like bubbles until, in the end, gently and without exploding, they shrink again (sometimes conserving the strings without treating them, like at the end of “Backwards Crossover”, which ends rocked gently by a guitar). As if the icy and brutal music of Tim Hecker were attacked by a heat wave that turns it first into water, then into steam. With the lightness and beauty, Mountains’ new album evolves, making it, if not the best of their career –which would be using big words– at least the most intimate and with the most instantaneous impact.
Mountains - Live at the Triple Door