Thursday, June 30, 2011

Air Museum - Mountains (CMG Review)

Air Museum

Thrill Jockey Records.

CMG Rating: 77%

I tried to sell my copy of Choral (2009) not three months after I’d purchased it, which should be an indicator of how little I used to care about Mountains. I’d tested out Choral in a myriad of ways: while daydreaming on my balcony; during walks through my Greek-flavored Toronto neighborhood; and glancing indiscriminately from city-bus windows at the world on its way to work. These experiences hinted at a promise that, sort of like Mountains’ pear-shaped compositions, failed to blossom the way I’d hoped. If you’re familiar with the record, you can probably namedrop the all-too-short harmonics piece that could’ve explored an hour’s worth of ambient ear-candy, or the nine-minute zone-out which morphs into a mesmerizing guitar coda only seconds before fade-out. So hesitantly stationary were these structures that it was almost as if Koen Holtkamp and Brendon Anderegg had spent days tweaking knobs and honing textures, if only to improvise on the actual compositions.

No one really bothered with this critique upon Choral‘s release—I get it; demanding structure on an ambient record can equate to missing the point—but instead fascinated over Mountains’ mystical classification. The duo’s seamless merger of acoustic instrumentation and pastoral electronics lay at the epicenter of the record’s appeal, yet for all of Air Museum‘s ideological divides—as their first LP recorded without relying on computers, and their first recorded in a studio—that nitty-gritty discourse hasn’t been disrupted in the least. Is it interesting that Holtkamp and Anderegg customized their studio space in a way that freed their material from computer-processing? Of course—it shows a steadfast refusal to repeat themselves. But holy shit, should the greater emphasis of the duo’s reorganization not be that Mountains sounds completely different? After all, a catalog of careful nuances (however accolade-worthy) rarely affords the sort of knee-jerk reaction “Thousand Square” gets on first listen, with its throbbing modular synths percolating an alien melody.

Read the rest of the CMG review here.

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