15 May 2011

Mountains - choral (Thrill Jockey, 2009)

Following two superb albums, self-released on their own label Apestaartje, the duo formed by Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp finally signed on a bigger and well known structure, Thrill Jockey, for their third album.

It's a big step forward which gives them a better diffusion for their music and a larger legitimacy among the international "indie" scene. This evolution is accompanied by some minor aesthetics changes.

"Choral" is somewhat about harvesting the labor and patient growth experimented on "Sewn" and on their self-titled debut. If you know well these albums, "Choral" won't be a big surprise as they just embraced a more laid-back approach, achieving a third album which is more easy to get accustomed too but as mysterious as their other releases.

It is probably more blissful and more pastoral, appeasing, warm and calming. The challenge seems now more musical than conceptual, more about soothing than giving challenges, more about reaching an hypnotic mood than building reflexive tension.It is then not a surprise that this record has bee largely performed and recorded live in real time with just subsequent minor changes and post-production.

The opening title-track develops directly an hypnotic, almost psychedelic perspective with organ drones waves, vintage synth choir sounds and soft percussion rhythms buried behind. Quite soon you're floating and you let the flow bring you away, not sure of the direction and of the existence of gravity, probably you may be even asleep before the term of these thirteen minutes.

I find the next track, "Map Table",  much more refreshing and in phase with the brilliance of their first two albums. A melancholic guitar fills the intro until electric piano sounds and quiet drones in the background build together magnificent melancholic atmospheres. The end is particularly soft and refined, warm and comfortable, like a large sofa at the end of a tiring day. Then all you want to do is to restart the track and listen to it again and again. 

But "Echelon" is unsurprisingly directly, an echelon higher, distilling emotional distress like if you were sailing on a river. In the background they added sounds from a thunderstorm. Humble but really grandiose and elegant.  

With "Add Infinity" they develop the psychedelic elements of the title track much more directly for trippy results as it sounds like moving through deep and dense fog or inside troubled waters.

"Melodica" sounds both nocturnal and almost bucolic, like walking through empty old ruins and abandoned industrial plants one icy early morning, as the sun starts to appear in a still dark but bluish sky, revealing some unexpected beauty which will progressively warm our hearts and we finish these twelve in a state of blissfulness.

They finally close the album with the short "Sheets Two" which sounds like keeping silent watching a view behind a window at the top of a building, feeling somewhat disconnected and relatively unconcerned, just lost in personal thoughts and reveries.  

Like their two previous albums, "Choral" is impressive and needs you to be able to focus and give a deep attention before unfolding its mysteries.

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