riginally devised as an outlet for live performances, Mountains consists of Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp, who are also cofounders of Apestaartje Records. If you are familiar with any of the label’s output—be it the gradual digital drones of Fourcolor, Collin Olan’s layered field recordings, or the feedback manipulations of Nicholas Collins—you already have a feel for the sounds contained on Mountains’ self-titled debut.
Unsurprisingly, Mountains—a four track, 57 minute audio journey—begins in a subtle, unassuming fashion. “Paper Windmill” enters with sustained keyboard notes and elongated tones that seem to hang and linger in the air before being accented by plucks of acoustic guitar and the drone of a cello. As the track saunters past a quarter of an hour, it eventually fades into a section that recalls the familiar pinpoint of Eno’s ambient-era material.
This, essentially, is what Mountains sounds like in its entirety. It is a hushed, minimal style that has populated much of the underground electronic world in the past few years and has seemingly overtaken much of the aural terrain that was once occupied by techno and its kin. Fellow US label 12K, Raster-Noton in Germany, and Spekk in Japan have also contributed this to new genre of electro-acoustics, but despite the fact that Mountains subscribe to this school of thought, the duo still retain an always inviting, delicate pop edge.
Paring down the electronic synthesis, “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass” most overtly supports this claim, with flecks of spare acoustic guitar approaching one of John Fahey’s drawn out passages. The refined tones that sink beneath the dominant guitar notes create a surprisingly warm and fragile counterpart to the humanity present in the acoustics. This, however, may be Mountains greatest asset: to approximate the blemished, natural sounds of an acoustic guitar through digital means.
The duo capitalize on this fact by saving their best track for last with “Sunday 07.25.04 Live at Tonic.” This live recording sits accurately alongside their studio-centric material, but there seems to be a sense of purpose to build towards a climax or a momentous event not conveyed on the other three tracks. “Sunday” initially constructs subtle field recordings of whispering rainfall and swells of passing wind into lattice of beautiful sound before a crescendo of swirling fragments and soft noise that sounds like it was siphoned from Fennesz’s Endless Summer overtake them. The bright drones and sun-streaked pieces of sound that comprise this track create a glorious end to an already stunning debut record.
As much minimalism as it is Americana, Mountains have crafted an intriguing world of sound on their self-titled recording and an interesting addition into digitally-scarred electro-acoustic works. In this style, by relocating their approach to more conventional territory, Mountains, conversely, end up defying many of the standards inherent in experimental electronics. It is an irony that adds an absorbing theoretical dynamic to the music, but, fortunately, the sound itself can more than carry its own weight.
Reviewed by: Ryan Potts
Reviewed on: 2005-08-09