Call for Book Reviewers and Bloggers

Music
cover art

Mountains

Etching

(Thrill Jockey; US: 6 Oct 2009; UK: 28 Sep 2009)

I adore these guys.  I love their live show.  I said that their concert was “an experience not quite like anything else the average PopMatters reader is likely to hear, and one devoutly not to be missed,” and although Etching isn’t quite a live album, it’s the closest thing you’re going to get.  Originally a tour CD-R (now on heavily limited vinyl with an MP3 download included, as is de rigueur these days) recorded at home live with no overdubs, it’s a faithful rendition of what they’ve been playing on tour.  And yet, I’m a little underwhelmed.


Home listeners unlucky enough to live somewhere where Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp haven’t come to visit ought to breathe easy, though. I’m pretty sure that if you haven’t already seen them live, Etching is an unmitigated success.  As long as the duo’s tracks can get on record, this is the first time they’ve really stretched out, and given 38 minutes to play with, they get really deep.  The first Mountains record where you can really hear a bit of Kosmische/Tangerine Dream influence, here they keep the burbling joy of their normal, pastoral sound, but stretch out their drones into a more relaxed form. It’s spacey and spacious and spends much of its time coming at the listener in endless waves of gorgeous sound.  I’m not sure Etching has a climax; it’s pretty much all one high from the opening minutes on, although there’s a little ebb and flow in the middle.  Working on such a broad canvas and in such a stream-of-consciousness kind of way does mean that this is a bit less immediately identifiable as Mountains (their work normally carries such a strong personal stamp and style that it’s hard to miss), but the payoff is worth that trade.


But as I said when I saw them in April, “part of just how beautiful and enrapturing Mountains’ performance was stems from proximity and volume.” Listening to Etching makes me realize how true that really is. These are the same sounds (roughly) I was hearing then, but they’ve gone from mind-blowing to pretty. Unlike a lot of drone groups, when playing live Anderegg and Holtkamp have an excellent grasp of just how loud they can get and still sound comfortable, even comforting—live, all that sound was almost like a heavy blanket wrapping you up.  No matter how loud I crank my speakers, the CD version just can’t compare, but until someone invents a way to actually pack a true live experience onto a disc, no CD version could.  The reduction in impact is relatively slight, but it’s enough to take things from slightly better than the albums (the live show) to ever-so-slightly less compelling than the albums (this disc).  Given how amazing Mountains, Sewn, and Choral all are, that means Etching is still pretty damn good.

Rating:

Related Articles
20 Aug 2013
All those hand-written "Mountains" on the cover of this 2008 record, now reissued by Thrill Jockey, assure us that, no matter how many times we say its name, the band remains slippery and in a state of constant redefinition, each one as satisfying as the last.
24 Jan 2013
Centralia is a brillaint album that plays with physical space as much as it opens up the expanse of sound we're capable of hearing.
By PopMatters Staff
11 Jan 2013
The Krautrocky drone band Mountains releases their latest album 'Centralia' on 22 January via Thrill Jockey. Here's the band's latest video along with their upcoming tour dates.
17 Dec 2009
Albums that missed our Top 60 Albums list, but at least one of our writers loves.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
Win a 15-CD Pack of Brazilian Music CDs from Six Degrees Records! in PopMatters Contests on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.