Release Date: May 10, 2011
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Experimental Ambient
The continuing power of drone as a combination of soothing and aggressive force -- in whatever balance the creators and, perhaps, the listeners, want -- defines a strain of rock-as-such continually, something Mountains had demonstrated a number of times over their releases prior to Air Museum. But this album perhaps best shows the duo able to capture the sense of drone as exaltation, something derived from the choice of instruments used, whether old keyboards, guitars, effects pedals, or further combinations and extrapolations as desired. That there's a sense of tradition at work is clear enough, the bubbling notes and stretched-out electronic wheeze of the opening "January 17" able to suggest late-'70s space rock obscurities, Pete Kember's mid-'90s explorations, or the dying-cassettes indie rock fascinations of the 2000s and 2010s.
Remember the opening of Blade Runner? As Agent Deckard navigates the urban sprawl, the glistening golden pyramid of Tyrell Corporation eclipses a futuristic Los Angeles, as blimps with giant screens bear down on the hustling and bustling inhabitants of the city. It all seemed so sleek and yet so dirty. And Vengalis’ score, choc-a-bloc with the latest in synth sounds, filled cinemas with a sense of a utopia that had already diminished in the film’s many noir scenes–a utopia our present would never reach.
The Brooklyn duo Mountains like a big canvas. Their panoramic electro-acoustic music is made from slow layers of processed acoustic instruments and patient drones that slide against each other at independent paces and with the single-mindedness of natural processes. They usually avoid loops in favor of a continual unspooling, so that the individual components of their tracks have no clear beginnings and endings, just hitches and knots here and there.
Nearly five minutes in to listening to Mountains' Air Museum while driving my car, I fell half-asleep and nearly drove my car off the road. I realized then that in order to properly appreciate Brendan Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp's latest effort, I would have to hole myself up in my bedroom and listen to the album's subtly shifting drone via a good pair of headphones. So I did just that, and similarly, within a very short space of time I fell asleep.
After sticking to laptop-treated acoustic sources for their first five years together, organic soundscapers Mountains, the duo of Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp, have changed up their method on cleverly titled new album Air Museum. Leaving the software behind, they now stretch and tweak their sources with analog equipment like pedals and modular synthesizers. Trading in track pads for banks of knobs opens their music up to quite a few new possibilities: more shimmering movement, increased density, and machinelike rhythms.