Mountains elicit varied reactions from their beholders. The thought or sight of these immense land masses can cause emotions ranging from wonderment to terror, each feeling potentially drifting into the other within an instance. Musicians have noticed this influence on people, and have responded by employing “mountain” in their band’s name. These artists have scaled mountainsides, both real and imagined, channeling through their amplifiers the moods and thoughts experienced; and whose sound reflects the monumental landmass from which they derive their names.
Mount Eerie resides beside its namesake—Mount Erie– in Anacortes, Washington where Phil Elverum, the core band member, wanders through the pines and rocky ledges gathering material from the landscapes encountered. Subjects such as mortality, existence and companionship appear in lyrics describing moss covered branches, fog arriving and woolly mammoths. Acoustic albums such as Dawn and Lost Wisdom display Mount Eerie’s delicacy in detailing fleeting realizations discovered in nature’s solitude. But like all mountains, conditions can turn violent. Droning synths and bellowing riffs portray the destructive and isolating forces of waves, wind and smoke throughout the tracks on Black Wooden Ceiling Opening and Ocean’s Roar. By describing the tumult and serenity in nature, Mount Eerie observes how dualities define each other, revealing the only consistency in life is change and the uneasiness and comfort that accompany it.
Thee Silver Mount Zion
Hailing from Montreal, this dynamic music collective began as a side project for Canadian post rock group Godspeed You! Black Emporer‘s Efrim Menuck; allegedly as a venue in which Menuck could become a more proficient music scorer. SMZ’s sound is manic, yet recognizably melodious. With an ever-changing lineup, SMZ’s repertoire of six studio releases range from the experimentally instrumental, with it’s walls of ambient synth driven violin, guitar combos; to the interestingly peculiar vocal lines of jeremiad in The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes. But it is not all doom and gloom with Silver Mount Zion. As their name would suggest, their lyrics end in a hopeful forecast, espousing the discomforts of the present with the hope of solace for the future.
A refreshing reminder of what’s important in life, this three-piece delivers an honest approach at life, love, and laughter; all in familiar folk dictum.
As their name would imply, Metal Mountain’s sound is anything but of this world. Amassing waves of tonal ambiguities, Metal Mountains ambient, flowing song structure is kept in succession only by vocalist Helen Rush’s mesmerizing lines, and Patrick Gubler’s tasteful guitar plucks. One listen to the Golden Trees release and you’ll have found the soundtrack of an awakening Rocky Mountains.
Rooted in Americana, these musicians focus on the sensual and, occasionally, tender qualities of life. At times, their peaks shimmer with strutting riffs and prancing organs like on the track “Tourist in Your Town” which reminisces over a busted romance and some adventurous nights spent on the rocks. Continuing in this erotic tone, “I F*** Mountains” contains moans that carry across a hazy, bongo-driven background flickering with guitar solos, seducing listeners in a Black Sabbath “Planet Caravan” fashion. Vampire, on the other hand, haunts headphones with wearisome howls and strings that ascend base camp blues once harmonies and horns join, pushing vocals upward over those lovelorn ridges. Even after circumstances buck the narrators in these songs, they continue climbing, sometimes clumsily mishandling terrain, but groping for the next ledge regardless.
Pink Mountaintop’s Stephen McBeam more straight forward musical project blends the successes of yesterday’s music with the innovation of today. Described as “Deep Purple’s and Jefferson Airplane’s lovechild”, the familiar and sometimes grungy pulse of Old Fangs revisits a time with muscle cars, long hair, and bell bottom jeans. Black Mountains does not regurgitate the past, but instead transforms them into a canvas of subtle electronics, driving riffs, and intentionally poorly hidden motifs.
Starting with a simple, recognizable melody, these New York based progressivists follow a simple formula for their identifiably “drone-music”: build, add, keep building, and keep adding. Their recent release Centralia, thrusts the listener to an atmosphere of soft undertones, spiraling walls of sound, and ambiguous leads like the massive landforms from which the band gets its name. It’s synth, guitar, and string combo is done as if the instruments were made to be played in tandem, with minor yet present distorted embellishments. Their music is not stagnent, however, as the spirals of sound seem to capture the listener in it’s colosal grasp, and lead through a range of peaks and valleys.
Accredited by some for pioneering the “post-dubstep” genre, these British electronic artists achieve the cerebral. Pitchfork describe their music as, “pretty, mostly mid-tempo tracks between three and four minutes long with sped-up vocal samples, little tunnels of ambience, unimposing synth patches, and syncopated percussion that sounds like someone putting away the silverware.” Using many field microphone samples, Mount Kimbie takes the mundane sounds of life, and with a little augmentation, creates a pulsating blanket of sound to sieze any listener.
You know when a band has devoweled their name, leaving only charred looking consonants behind for identification purposes, that their music is probably a brutal listening experience. Seattle band MTNS sounds like a landslide pouring into your ear. Their EP All Songs are Spells contains layers of feedback swollen with screeching riffs and thrashing drums that erupt from speakers, carrying listeners through landscapes shattering with noise. Each song is an assault on silence, embracing the unstable and cacophonous side of mountains.
Mount St. Helens Vietnam Band
This Seattle based rock quartet’s music is defined by constant time signature changes and dynamic inconsistencies, reminding any listener of the volcanic eruption of 198o on the mountain from which they get their name. Their busy-ness for which this band is known is the creative expressions of Benjamin Verdoes, the bands principal song-writer, singer, and lead guitar player. Their affront on typical 4/4 and an absolute refusal to remain dynamically uniform are evident in the riffing of Albatross Albatross Albatross.
Yonder Mountain String Band
The nostalgic fret tickling of this blue grass, western band will catch the ear of any string player. Tracks like If You’re Ever in Oklahoma and Lay it on the Line force the listener to reminisce over more simple times. While the music is unmistakably traditional, the Yonder Mountain String Band never fail to capture the attention of any music appreciator. With sweeping guitar licks and imposing bass lines, you’ll swear these blue grasser’s sold their soul to the devil.