Music

Mountaineater: Mountaineater

Dunedin, New Zealand might be famed for its jingling and jangling indie pop bands, but as Mountaineater’s self-titled debut reminds us, the city has plenty of gigantic and jagged riffs to be discovered too.


Mountaineater

Mountaineater

Label: Banished From the Universe
US Release Date: 2013-10-11
UK Release Date: 2013-10-11
Amazon
iTunes

A host of bands from Dunedin, New Zealand, have influenced the global indie pop scene over the years, but all those jingles and jangles aren’t the only noteworthy noises to have emanated from the city. Dunedin also has a long history of bands taking a darker musical tack, such as the audio disfigurements of experimental trio the Dead C, and the noise-rock distortions and post-rock contortions of another celebrated three-piece, the late and lamented HDU.

HDU began dicing up sound with unorthodox time signatures and serving it all via stacks of flambéed amplifiers in the mid-'90s. The band's 2001 full-length Fire Works, recorded by Steve Albini, is HDU's best release, and its most internationally successful. The group called a halt in 2008, and soon after, HDU's singer and guitarist, Tristan Dingemans, began working with drummer Chris Livingston and bassist Anaru Ngata, birthing another tumultuous trio in Mountaineater. Over the past few years the band has played a swag of incendiary live shows--and released the Mata/Sun Fired 7-inch. Coupled with the reverence with which HDU is regarded, expectations around Mountaineater's recently released self-titled debut album are sky high.

Mountaineater exceeds those expectations. Dingemans wrests earthquaking sounds from his guitar, and shapes gargantuan songs that reverberate with deep sonic tremors and tales of struggle and the search for meaning. No surprise there.

Dingemans is, unquestionably, one of New Zealand’s guitar greats, and the titanic timbre of his distinctive six-string stylings have always made for monolithic suites. However, Mountaineater is also Dingemans' most evocative work yet, and the album is filled with sounds that mirror the peaks and valleys of Mountaineater's geographic environment. Mountaineater also brings a strong sense of the honing of creative ideas the band has indulged in on stage and in practice rooms, and recorded and mixed by Dale Cotton over the last two years, (with Cotton and Dingemans co-producing) the album sounds mammoth, and aptly mountainous.

Mountaineater is a towering release, and as Cotton so ably exhibited on Beastwars' Blood Becomes Fire album earlier this year, he's captured Mountaineater's Herculean tones so all their hefty impact is felt, but not at the expense of subtler shifts up the fretboard, or more intricate percussive fills.

"Gutterball" opens proceedings with a crushing riff that pays homage to Albini's trudge and trample, but as the song tears through cragged caverns, it paints a picture of Dingemans wrestling with angels and demons--both hallucinatory and real. "Lord of Sumo" follows on, with its bass-heavy propulsion plowing on through a track that leaves the reek of stoner rock in its wake, and comparisons can be made between Mountaineater and HDU on both songs.

Each is powered by a rock-solid rhythm section for a start, but with all songs (bar one) being written by Dingemans, there are other, inescapable, memories of HDU’s guitar voyages. Most clearly heard are Dingemans' continuing investigations into balancing density and space with fluctuating tempos and layers of texture. And the familiar sense that things could veer off anywhere is all over the gigantic post-punk epic "Spiderbaby" -- which spills over with dirty riffs and ear-splitting chaos.

Mountaineater also forgoes easy pigeonholing. Like HDU, the band combines a raft of elements from brawny, coarse and more venturesome rock into a cacophonous caldron, but the resulting mix also marks the most obvious point of difference between HDU and Mountaineater.

Mountaineater dives in with denser, overdriven riffs to produce scorching rock 'n' roll, and that's all there on "Jerusalem" -- with the song's sonic stockpile detonating in a cathartic release reminiscent of the pressure-gauge dynamiting the band produces live on stage. However, it’s not all heads-down noise. Mountaineater brings a sense of wide open exploration on the cinematic tour of psychedelic landscapes found on "Ch'an Ra". "Exegesis VII" tumbles over acid-rock rapids--with icy feedback pooling in deep reflective eddies. And both songs show the mass within to be just as important as the contemplative weight that surrounds them.

Mountaineater continues the thundering adventures that Dingemans began with HDU, but with Livingston and Ngata alongside, the trio isn't repeating tales already told. Mountaineater bludgeons with both finesse and ferocity, dispensing abundant mayhem while digging deep into the maelstrom, and exploring jagged sonic summits lit by kaleidoscopic color on more open-ended sojourns.

Whatever the elevation, Mountaineater makes for a majestic view: 360 degrees of driving and wholly powerful rock ‘n’ roll. A stunning debut, all round.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.