ast year, under the guise of Mountains, Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp crafted last year’s most gorgeous—and, to these ears, best—record. It’s not that beauty is obligatory for a great album, but this New York-based duo struck a sound that was too exhilarating to ignore. Simultaneously tuneful, experimental, and entirely natural, Mountains return with an enriched palette and a heightened sense of songwriting in the form of Sewn.
Mountains’ sophomore album arrives less than a year after their self-titled debut, yet the growth displayed on Sewn is commendable. The duo have challenged their own formula of layered soundscapes and extended structures with twice as many tracks and a run-time that is twelve minutes shorter. Concentrating on more song-based compositions, Sewn contains tracks that are often only three or four minutes long, allowing short glimpses of their grandiose vision.
Mountains gather many sounds—the familiar (acoustic guitars), the foreign (swells of digitally processed sound), and the natural (field recordings)—while successfully weaving each into their gorgeous sonic web. But despite the divergent sounds that wander through the album, Sewn is remarkably cohesive. Credit this to the consistently tender approach to instrumentation and the dew-coated atmospherics they elicit from them or the fact that Mountains act more like listeners than musicians: their patience and serenity outstrips many of their experimental cohorts. It’s as if they’re capturing the sounds from the ether and that Sewn simply exists—exquisitely and inimitably—and was never quite written or recorded.
Mountains’ adept sense of pacing and stark attention to detail attests to this fact; each of the album’s eight songs unfold as if they were blossoming into a living, breathing entity. Each technique and style that arises on Sewn seems to exemplify this fact. Reoccurring throughout the album, “Sewn Two” first introduces the warm, unadorned fingerpicked guitar playing which is gently accompanied by organic drones and processed acoustic instruments. “Sewn Two” closes before the three minute mark, yet Mountains still occasionally make a foray into extended song structures—most notably on the dense and sprawling “Hundred Acre.” That track slowly amasses itself into a tidal wave of sound with a rich composite of textural drone, wind and rain recordings, and digital blemishes at its core. It is Sewn’s boldest moment, evoking pure, intimate emotion that lands somewhere between nostalgia and contentedness.
Reviewed by: Ryan Potts
Reviewed on: 2006-02-24