"A kind of formless post-stoner rock combining a limited sound palette, musical development & emotional range with a near-limitless protractedness…"
I’m an unashamed Mountains lover. But even — or especially — with an appetite for their shimmering, accumulating sound that takes in any release I can find (including both solo guises), it’s worth trying to imagine why people might not love their music.
Only for a moment, though, as those people are wrong! For me, Mountains’ limits & limitlessness are at the core of their uniqueness. Listening back across their albums before Choral & Etching, they seem always to have had this subtly self-confident willingness to work & rework their narrow but, in its sly, slow way, very intense furrow — gentle, accepting, somewhat yearning (but muted).
You could say that the newer records, the relatively vigorous Etching especially, are in more obviously Mountainous terrain: yomping up to single note-driven swollen, riffy peaks, then ebbing down to regroup below. But I’ve never found that their name fits them at all well — this is music of the foothills or meadows, one that is precisely not about soaring peaks but rather long (not arduous) journeys or undertakings.
There’s also a timelessness at work, clearly – both indifference to conventional notions of structure, of starting & ending, & in the sense of a sound out of time: not especially contemporary nor actively backwards-looking either (though fans of Another Green World-era art-rock might feel an unexpected spark of recognition at some of the textures making up Etching’s lovely murk).
Etching has a definite performance feel (though that might be down to Thrill Jockey sharing the circumstances of its making, I concede). I seem to hear more overt kinetic energy than before, though the languid, reflective tempo has hardly altered.
It’s a dense, rich sound of several boxes of tricks being emptied out & put to play – more strummed than I remember from initial listens, but also clattering, buzzing & with a darker, riffier tone towards the end.
Perhaps it’s just my prejudice. But granted the power to ban Mountains from their acoustic guitar (guitars?), I might be tempted – to force them to work even more with the blobbier, more viscous part of their sound, or even to dig out the bells of Melodica another time.
It’s interesting to put Mountains up against Emeralds (the closest peer?). In this light the duo’s bristly, blurred sound seems more individual & less rooted in a single influence than the excellent Emeralds of What Happened & the European tour CD…