19 May 2011

Mountains - air museum (Thrill Jockey, 2011)

"Air Museum" is different from the previous albums by Mountains, but it is a kind of norm for the band, going forward, surprising with each album, even if as a fan finally you'll find the same substance.

But this time, you'll have to dig deeper, in fact too much, and also discard a few tracks as dead ends. "Thousand Square" is the perfect example of inanity for my ears, five minutes of analog beats and synth sounds, which quickly makes me feel exhausted and bored. Same sentence for "Sequel", analog synth exploration of "kosmische musik".

Honestly there is nothing down here to dethrone their previous cornerstones, like what was for me "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass" on their debut album. The hope of finding new ones but it is still the reason why i enjoy their music and what I'm looking for on "Air Museum". It is a search to see where is hidden their heart on this new album.

Like with this other duo, The Books, Mountains don't really want to please, they are just obsessed by their own process of expression, searching to push it forward, even if it would cost them a few errors or misunderstandings.

Gone is the acoustic guitar, gone are their usual collection of classic instruments on "Air Museum" and such a lack inspire me some doubt, as they were apparent crucial key elements of their music so far.

In contrast wit the minimalism of their earlier discography, this fourth album seems much more densely layered at times, which makes the structure of their composition even more blurry as it is harder to detect beginning or endings and key elements of tension.

"Air museum" is their first album recorded in a studio, and has been purely built with the use of various pedals and modular synthesizers under the pressure of a limited time. And indeed there is more urgency, more freshness and even dynamism on this album, to the point that it can be even disturbing. Sound external to the virtual world have been so processed that they cannot be easily identified and never lead the atmosphere with their own authenticity.

This absence and the choice of vintage synth sounds and rhythms is my lecture of their album title.  It is difficult for me to feel concerned most of the time. I identify this music as theirs but it sounds more artificial.

Already on opening track "January 17", I feel like stuck into a suborbital trip. Only saved later by the abstraction and introspection of "Newsprint", instilling a feeling of contemplative melancholy, followed by the splendor and refreshing vibrancy of “Blue Lanterns on East Oxford” which seems clever mostly in contrast with the weaker tracks.

With "Backwords Crossover" they return to this absence of something special during the first part, finally reaching a more interesting climax later, particularly when the acoustic guitar appears during the last seconds, but it isn't enough to save the track completely. 

The last track, “Live at the Triple Door” is just a last proof about how much their recent directions have totally diluted the soul of their previous discography, they always seem distant on this album, you can feel their presence, but the state of communion is mostly unreachable, the album ends with 50 seconds of acoustic guitar and all you can wish is that they return soon to the naturalist approach which is their real identity and which they failed to translate completely here.

Mountains - Blue Lanterns on East Oxford from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.


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