MOUNTAINS: Air Museum (Thrill Jockey)


Posted on May 19th 2011 01:43 am

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Mountains: Air Museum

Air Museum
Thrill Jockey 2011
07 Tracks. 43mins24secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP | DLD iTunes: DLD

If Mountains, the duo formed of Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp, have constantly treaded the line between acoustic and electronic, they do so even more with their latest album, their second for Thrill Jockey. On the surface, Air Museum, actually sounds like a series of experiments with modular synthethis, and in a way, it is, but behind the stark electronic sounds and textures lie an array of acoustic and electric instrumentation, from guitars and bass to cello, piano, accordion and more. It is the very essence of the record which is changed. While the pair processed acoustic sounds through a computer in the past, they here use modular synths, pedals and analog tools to render their sound sources, and, instead of working from live improvisations, they recorded in a studio, allowing them to explore new ways of working. These processed were devised following the band’s last tour, when they decided to move away from computer reliance. They spent the next few months assembling new tools and working out ideas on how to apply this set up. The resulting compositions confound expectations of what a Mountains album sounds like, and blurs the boundaries between acoustic and electronic like never before.

Air Museum opens with the drone structure of January 17. Initially fairly minimal, it rapidly grows into a much denser formation as sounds sprout out and bubble up to the surface. Thousand Square, which follows, shows a shift in focus towards a rhythmic pattern around which circle all sorts of other micro-structures, like miniature satelites, some based around loops, others around much looser sequences. It is pretty much between these two poles that Anderegg and Holtkamp experiment for the rest of the record, often bringing the two together and arranging them into hypnotic dreamy sonic vignettes.

What characterized Mountains’ previous records was the pair’s incredible attention to details and the superb refinement of their soundscapes. While Air Museum doesn’t reveal its acoustic components easily, the same consideration is applied, to very similar effect. The aspect of the music may be different, but Anderegg and Holtkamp have lost nothing of their expert craftsmanship. This is obvious throughout, from the way they develop their pieces, slowly building up layers of abrasion and interferences on Newsprint, creating shimmering textures reminiscent of mid-seventies Tangerine Dream on Sequel or arranging the various segments of Backwards Crossover into a perfectly coherent whole, while the epic album closer Live At The Triple Door, edited from a live performance recorded in Seattle two years ago, is an extremely intricate piece which continuously grows over almost its entire course, until it comes to a close with just an acoustic guitar.

That Air Museum sounds much more purely electronic than any of the band’s previous outputs doesn’t account for the acoustic sound sources that form its basis, but this is the interesting thing about it. While they process them with analogue appliances, Mountains actually manage to make real instruments sound, and feel, totally artificial, and, pushing the contradiction even further, they in turn make these seemingly electronic soundscapes sound extremely organic and real.


Mountains (MySpace) | Thrill Jockey
Amazon UK: CD | LP US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP | DLD iTunes: DLD

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