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Speck Mountain

Summer Above

(Burnt Brown Sounds; US: 2 Oct 2007; UK: Available as import)

Review [13.Aug.2007]

Speck Mountain’s Summer Above is equal parts heartfelt gospel and ghostly mist. The band can infuse their classic rock-touched psychedelia full of warmth, the way they do through sliding guitars and reverbed vocals on the title track, or they can turn it all on its ear and go cold and withering, as in “Hey Moon”. This track finds singer Marie-Claire Balabanian commiserating with the moon, happy to be in the near-darkness of night, as she claims “The sun, your friend, is much too bright.” This one-two temperature shock is a perfect opening to the album, as it puts all the band’s strengths on display, and also gives us the best tracks on the record right up front. The slow burn of “Girl Out West” continues to draw the listener in as the song’s trudge pace gives it a bluesy tension that carries through the whole, eight-minute song. 

Unfortunately, things start to come apart after that. The echoes and hazy atmosphere persist to a decent effect, but as the songs get weaker, the sound behind them loses its strength. The downward spiral of the record culminates in closer “Chlorine Fields”, which spends three minutes or so as a passable dusty ballad, with Balabanian’s bittersweet vocals leading the way, before it crashes into a confusing drone of guitar and organ that carries on for another five minutes. The results make for a self-indulgent ending to an album that is anything but. There is evidence here that Speck Mountain are a solid band that can make a great, heartbreaking album; but Summer Above isn’t quite it.


Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.

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