Mountain Man Mountain ManMade The Harbor
What ever happened to that weird folk fever? Doesn’t it seem to you like it has gone down a few degrees all of the sudden? The main practitioners seemed to have all disappeared in about a year. Like a hangover, and keeping its distance from expressionistic emphasis, a highly formal return to its origins, far removed from flourishes and impossible manoeuvres seems to predominate more and more. With Fleet Foxes’ exemplary debut still in our memory –expect the new one to be even more classic and you’ll be right on the right track—and while we are waiting for Iron & Wine to show up with another juicy piece of forbidden fruit, few names on the folk scene are calling attention as extravagantly as they did a couple of seasons ago. Raising their voice in the midst of this relative silence, and preceded by a low buzz on the Internet, the arrival of Mountain Man comes as a sight for sore eyes. Although it is said that they have another album recorded that is nowhere to be found, “Made the Harbor” is the first official work from this female trio. A delight that you listen to with your heart in your mouth, and which seems to fill a void in the wasteland of winged folk that so far nobody had seemed to notice needed to be filled.
Molly, Alexandra and Amelia, two of whom are still students, met at Bennington College in Vermont, from where other outstanding proposals for 2010 like the indiscreet folk of Sam Amidon or the twisting Martian screw of the masterful The Books also hail. The three women have written an album that is as light and gentle as a feather, the one in a thousand that really justifies the use of the adjective “timeless.” As if following a geographical spread that brings together their immense love for all of the roots of American music, each of them comes from a different part of the United States: one from the East Coast, one from the West Coast, and one from the Midwest. Their recent romantic difficulties –which could be the same as those that upset the oestrogen balance of Vivian Girls or Au Revoir Simone– led them to get together in an abandoned factory to record this immaculate miniature, pure translucent folk nectar that flows like resin spouting out directly from a tree, or like water bubbling up from a hidden spring. Thirty minutes of sacred music that comes as one of the great miniature treasures of this imposing musical year.
With the reverb betraying the homemade quality of the recording, upheld by balsamic choruses and harmonies that are more unspoiled than those of Fleet Foxes, the lullabies of “Made the Harbor” extol the virtues of song-writing over technique. In them, you only hear three immaculate voices, and, at times, Alexandra’s acoustic guitar. The austerity displayed by the entire work generates an intimate air of seclusion, an ecosystem of pale light and absolute confession that at times seems to hark back to what Jesy Fortino suggested in the formidable “Life on Earth.” Like Tiny Vipers, although keeping more “core” distances, Mountain Man marks off a private domain of feeling that it feels uncomfortable to invade, but where everything is pleasant and polite once you are taken into its bosom. The great weight of the album lies in its eminently vocal nature: like Amélie Nothomb in literature, Mountain Man gives a core relevance to the voice, to the oral quality, and to dialogue. Another of the most outstanding points of the proposal is the misanthropic nature of the lyrics, written according to a bucolic conceptual diagram that makes it easy to figure out what titles like “Buffalo” , “Animal” , “Honeybee” or “River” are talking about. Thus the tone of the work connects directly to the semantics of the goddess Joanna, although it does counter her sumptuousness with absolute asceticism. Only two players are called to “Made the Harbor” : Woman and Earth.
Starting from Appalachian folk and the memory of ballads from other lands and other centuries, their music presents itself as a soothing antidote to noise. In Mountain Man, frugality becomes wealth, and the almost autistic or hieratic tone that can put you off in the first minutes turns itself quickly into something pleasurable, sensual. This is music that invites you to lie down at its side, as sybaritic as the unforgettable Roches sisters were, with whom, besides the twee flavour of the lyrics, they also share an exquisite bravery in taking on a cappella songs. “Babylon”, with its revision of Psalm 137 exactly the opposite of ABBA, “How’m I Doin” or “Mounthwings” are raw songs that don’t need any instrument to sound leafy. Tunes like “Soft Skin” make you melt (“I’ve got soft skin / are you gonna let me in?”), while others like “Loon Song” show a depth of field that leads one to expect stratospheric possibilities in a none-too-distant future. Like an homage rendered to The Be Good Tanyas, with whom they have been compared for obvious stylistic reasons, in Mountain Man we find one of those rare religions that make you want to believe in them. But the minimal, fragile, diminutive air of “Made the Harbor” makes it almost embarrassing to bring up other names. Just turn out all the lights and listen to what Alexandra, Amelia and Molly have to whisper in your ear over the course of these thirteen lovely songs. The commandments of the religion are written in every verse.
Mountain Man - Soft Skin Mountain Man - Sewee Sewee