J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Now Departing:
Black Mountain - In the Future


Black Mountain
In the Future
(Jagjaguwar ; 2008)


For me, picking up the Children of Nuggets boxset was a turning point in my understanding of rock and roll. The term 'psychedelic' only had a vague meaning to me before my initial explorations of bands in the Paisley Underground movement via the boxset. Since then it's been one branch, then another, that seems to connect back down the psychedelic family tree. I missed Black Mountain's debut back in 2006, but their name always caught my eye, even if they weren't actually from Black Mountain, North Carolina. Their new album, In the Future, is exactly the type of release from exactly the type of band who belongs on the future updated version of Children of Nuggets. Piled with amazing psychedelic drone and thundering riffs that reflect everything from the Rain Parade to Led Zepplin to Neu, In the Future is a remarkable and surprisingly consistent listen from a band following a muse that hasn't been actively (or successfully) followed in some time.

Opening with the thunderous "Stormy High," the album is a genuine and fantastic update to a classic sound. Layered amongst the dense guitars are keyboard effects that give the sound a theatrical feel - the whole thing is a powerful opener, obviously designed to put listeners on notice. The slow-simmering "Angels" follows up, reigning in the building friction. It seems like a pretty standard song until the bridge comes through, bursting with strings that make the simplicity of the song leap forward as a brilliant foundation.

But the first track to make true use of all the influences is the absolutely astounding "Wucan," with a droning, undergirding of keyboards and bass that resemble the chugging, ur-riffing of krautrock, hypnotic, wavering guitar lines that reflect the psychedelic nature of the lyrics and occasional bursts of tight, powerful rock. The haunting bridge is the song's vanishing point - where it extends itself out into true epic feel, even though it clocks in at just six minutes. Not that the album is without its longer moments - "Tyrants" comes in at just over eight minutes and the mammoth "Bright Lights" more than doubles that at nearly seventeen.

In the Future isn't without its divergences from the formula the album seems to be building - "Stay Free" is a largely acoustic ballad that comes at the mid-point, delivering a falsetto-heavy psych-folk dose, reminiscent of the hazy, blissful creations of Dave Roback (he of the Rain Parade, Opal and Mazzy Star) and "Evil Ways" mines some of the funkier, bluesier moments of the Rolling Stones. The album uses these songs, along with some of the more meditative, vaguely ambient tracks ("Queens Will Play," "Night Walks"), as anchors to break up the album's big, droning rockers. It's a clever strategy and keeps the album from bogging down. At just shy of an hour's length, back-to-back meditative jams would have been tedious, but spread out amongst the other equally engaging songs, they work as the major pieces of the album.

Black Mountain is a band that could do any number of things in the future - either wither into terrible self-parody and past worship, or continue to hone their skills into something truly engaging and evolutionary. For the time being, they have put together a quality album, the likes and style of which haven't been heard done this well in some time.

Rating: E(xcellent)

(Rating scale: A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y)

Judge For Yourself:

Black Mountain - "Angels"

Black Mountain - "Wucan"

Black Mountain - "Evil Ways"

Download In the Future from EMusic.

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