MOUNTAINS: Choral (Thrill Jockey)


Posted on Feb 11th 2009 01:53 am

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Mountains: Choral

Thrill Jockey 2009
06 Tracks. 51mins08secs

Vast sonic plains and beautiful, rich textures have been the corner stones of New York’s Mountains ever since they released their self-titled debut album four years ago. In 2006, Sewn, their second offering, developed on its predecessor’s blueprint to give the more succinct compositions an accentuated relief  and a greater overall focus. Following a very limited vinyl-only release collecting live recordings and odds and sods last year, which is due to be re-released on CD later on in the year, the duo formed of Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp have, with their third opus, taken their sound to yet another level.

While the pair’s first two records were published on their own Apestaartje imprint, Choral surfaces on Chicago-based Thrill Jockey. Recorded at home in New York, this album is the fruit of long sessions during which the pair would record multiple version of each track, adding little or no overdubs, and choosing the best versions for the record. The resulting six pieces are longer than most of the tracks found on Sewn, but the density and evocative power of the music remains totally untouched. Once again, the pair seem to expand on the already vast bank of instruments and sounds used on previous records, and weave them into ever tighter and denser sonic drapes which progressively build up from fragile forms into sweeping flows of majestic sounds. This is never truer than on the epic Melodica. From the multitude of bells and chimes scattered over the first few furlongs of its path rise wave after wave of long cinematic drones which grow into lush flourishes before exploding into myriads of scintillating debris.

Very much like Fennesz, what characterises the music of Mountains is its overall pastoral beauty and atmospheric density, even when at its most abrasive. On Add Infinity, which opens with a gentle melancholic acoustic guitar, underlined by a subtle brush of accordion, before a much more compact and grittier slab of white noise and saturation progressively swallows it all, all this happens totally effortlessly, and, quite impressively, without any fracture in the musicality of the track. In stark contrast, the title track, which opens the album, builds on the sound of an accordion, stretched and modelled into a monolithic linear backdrop against which deep bell-like bass pulses bounce at regular interval, while other sonics float and revolve in higher registers, but here again, the mood is strikingly peaceful and arcadian. The shorter Map Table beams through the elegant motifs drawn by an acoustic guitar and, towards the end, a piano. Equally, Sheet Two, which conclude, is a deceptively simple and concise piece where an electro-acoustic guitar resonates into wonderfully airy swathes evocative of Victorialand-era Cocteau Twins.

Once again, Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp do justice to the name they have chosen as a vehicle for their common work by creating vast and impressive soundscapes and giving them depth and relief. Feeding on a rich and varied pool of sounds, either collected or generated, Choral is a truly magnificent, deeply lyrical and accomplished record.


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Comments (3)

3 Responses to “MOUNTAINS: Choral (Thrill Jockey)”

  1. Justin Snowon 10 Mar 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Awesome review for an awesome record. How appropriate.

  2. […] their first two albums were published on their own imprint, Apestaartje, their third opus proper, Choral, materialised on Chicago’s Thrill Jockey. In early 2009, Mountains recorded a long improvisation […]

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