Reviews

Mountains: 28 April 2009 - Toronto

Mountains are an experience not quite like anything else the average PopMatters reader is likely to hear and shouldn’t be missed.

Mountains

Mountains

City: Toronto, ON
Venue: The Music Gallery
Date: 2009-04-28

Above all else, the Music Gallery is a very civilized venue for a concert. Operating out of a series of locations around Toronto since it was founded in 1976, and situated at St. George the Martyr Church since 2001, the Music Gallery is “a publicly assisted centre for the creation, development and performance of art music from all genres,” which means that you don’t tend to get screaming crowds or inconsiderate drunkards. Shows start promptly and end at more reasonable hours than most in Toronto do. Not exactly your typical club venue, but the Brooklyn-based, blissfully droney duo Mountains fit right in.

Two local drone/noise luminaries, both of whom satisfied and provoked in turn, preceded Mountains. Ayal Senior’s Spacechurch (consisting of, uh, Ayal Senior) provided a bracingly noisy performance, the rapidly shifting nature of which was its primary virtue and weakness. Whenever Senior locked into a particularly satisfying melody or noise he’d move away from it frustratingly quickly, but by the same token when things weren’t working for you, you only had to wait a minute or so for it to pass. Matthew “Doc” Dunn, meanwhile, started his set with a few minutes of quiet, lambent, slowly accreting pedal steel noise (ably supported by a few guests, whose names I didn’t catch). Once things got a bit more overt I missed the charm of the barely-there initial melodies and the way they seemed to float beneath the music, but Dunn’s set was still an often-beautiful flow of high lonesome sound not a million miles away from Earth’s recent work.

But as intriguing and often compelling as the openers were, within minutes of Brandon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp picking up their acoustic guitars (supplemented with voice, singing bowl, a miniature harmonium called a Shruti Box, and subtle electronics) and beginning their composition/set, the difference was clear. Befitting an act like Mountains that doesn’t make songs in the conventional sense, they didn’t play material from Choral or their other albums (they did have a very good tour CD-R with an earlier version of what they’re currently playing live, however). But if I had to explain the impact of the show to someone already familiar with the band (and you should be), I would say that Mountains managed to sustain the surging euphoria of “Choral” for most of the length of their forty minute set.

Part of just how beautiful and enrapturing Mountains’ performance was stems from proximity and volume. Their densely layered sound was a physical presence in room, rumbling our pews slightly but never hurting the ears. And unlike a lot of similar groups, even the physical acts of the performance were intriguing, seeing firsthand how each oncoming wave was formed -- this one with acoustic guitar and voice, that with a marble and some corn kernels dropped into the singing bowl, all of them building on drones they’d been patiently establishing. The ending was a bit abrupt and unwelcome -- the music didn’t quite stop dead in its tracks, but it certainly didn’t ebb away as patiently and gracefully as it had come into being. Mostly that sudden stop was unwelcome just because it meant the set was over. When the room suddenly went quiet there was a pause as the audience gathered its senses, and then a further pause as we hoped that Anderegg and Holtkamp would begin playing something else. But once we accepted that Mountains were done, the room burst into applause.

Shows like this, that are more about the physical presence of sound in the room and the gradual accretion of noise, are often a risky proposition live and drone bands in general are often hit and miss. But the steady accumulation of beauty that Mountains managed at the Music Gallery was beautiful enough that, as special a show as it was, it was hard not to wish a much larger group had heard it. The crowd was sizeable for a Music Gallery show (it’s not a large church), but like a lot of their programming it was hard to walk out of the venue into the rest of the city without feeling that the people walking down the street had really missed something special. Right now Mountains live are an experience not quite like anything else the average PopMatters reader is likely to hear, and one devoutly not to be missed.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image