Release Date: Jan 22, 2013
Record label: Carrot Top
Speck Mountain’s last album, 2009’s Some Sweet Relief, was one of my picks for 2009 album of the year. The obvious antecedents are bands like Cowboy Junkies and, especially, Mazzy Star: in fact the lead tune from that album, “Shame on the Soul”, could have been a lost Mazzy track (and a good one at that). With sleepy tempos, languid vocals from Marie-Claire Balabanian and chiming guitar courtesy of Karl Briederick, the Chicago-based outfit is a band that mines a well-ploughed furrow, but their tight musical chops ensure that the proceedings never feel rote.
For Speck Mountain’s first album since 2009, founding members Marie-Claire Balabanian and Karl Briedrick have been on the recruitment trail. Former Chin Up Chin Up drummer Chris Dye and former pentacostal church organist Linda Malonis have been added to the Chicago-based outfit in the hope that they can add some new dynamics to a formula that has already seen them produce a couple of LPs. One would expect these new additions would make for something bold, exciting and rejuvenating but Badwater doesn’t quite follow this script.
Badwater incarnate is just as likely to be wearing a poetry slam beret as it is a Norwegian sweater, and when invited over for a film night is likely to bring copies of Gene Wilder’s Chocolate Factory and the Science of Sleep. The album provides an aural recap to a dimly lit bar in the Mohave circa ’76, whilst simultaneously retaining aesthetic relevance to a coffee shop in Williamsburg circa seven o’clock this evening; it transcends time and space via a sonic kaleidoscope of analogue warmth and mature psychedelia. Having been pummeled over the last decade by revamps of music lost in time, I am thoroughly refreshed to hear this modern adaptation of 70’s guitar music.
Some folks aren’t afraid to trade in the hustle and bustle for a more measured existence where every step is calculated and unhurried. These are the same people who prefer long walks in the rain and take forever to cross the street often to the dismay of the rows of motorists in the queue. After all, what’s the rush when regardless of wherever you are, there is a sense that you have arrived, and if you are lucky enough to feel that way you are likely to revisit that corner over and over and cross with the same deliberate pace.