Launched in Chicago by longtime friends and art-school students Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp around 2000, Brooklyn electronic duo Mountains initially conjured bucolic soundscapes with acoustic guitar, field recordings and digital processing. But with each successive recording, the duo’s vistas expanded. Choral, the third proper Mountains album and its first for Thrill Jockey, sublimated the electronics in order to enhance acoustic textures; Air Museum, its follow-up, offered improvisations so cohesive they suggested volition.
Centralia, due out on Tuesday 22 from Thrill Jockey, already feels like a crowning achievement. A synthesis of everything Mountains learned in its past outings—fragile acoustic-guitar shimmers; radiant harmonic clouds; throbbing synth washes; and, above all, a feeling of shape and trajectory—this is the rare LP that might appeal equally to admirers of John Fahey, Popol Vuh and Oneohtrix Point Never.
The other acts on the bill similarly ground electronic meditations with more-tactile sensations. In Mind Over Mirrors, Peeesseye member Jaime Fennelly fashions imposing edifices and throbbing star fields with an Indian harmonium’s humble bellows and judiciously applied effects pedals. Likewise, subtle traces of breath and wood are integral to the dancing-dervish reveries of Golden Retriever, the Portland, Oregon, duo of synth player Matt Carlson and bass clarinetist Jonathan Sielaff. Occupied with the Unspoken, the pair’s Thrill Jockey debut, was one of last year’s loveliest albums—ambient or otherwise.—Steve Smith
Follow Steve Smith on Twitter: @nightafternight