This past weekend, New Haven, Connecticut, pastoralists The Mountain Movers played the release show for their second album, Death Magic. Out this Friday, Aug. 28, through Safety Meeting Records, it’s their fifth long-player and first since 2010’s Apple Mountain, recorded by former drummer John Miller (Titles) and boasting a natural and subtly driving sound. Shoegazing and indie airiness pervade, and there’s a weighted undertone in Ross Menze‘s drums and the bass of Rick Omonte (ex-Crooked Hook) that meshes smoothly with guitarists Dan Greene (also vocals and artwork) and Kryssi Battalene (lead) to present an organic, at times understated psychedelia. Less space, more earth, but trippy all the same.
Opener “Short Life” does very little to hide its ’90s stylization, but by the time The Mountain Movers make their way to “Floating Holiday” two tracks later, the context has already widened considerably. It continues to do so throughout Death Magic, which builds tension and releases it in periodic bouts of fuzz and post-rocking dreaminess. “Dead Tomorrow” turns its title into a morose hook and seems to presage the immersive, slow-rolling swing of “Stray Cat in the Street,” which seems to be over before its really started at 2:20. Tempo and runtime seem to be playthings as much as the instruments on Death Magic, but the album lacks nothing for flow, pushing through the more jagged riffing of “I’ve Been Moved” and its near-seven-minute psychedelic thrust into the more peaceful but still discordant plod of closer “A Bird Flew in My Shed” in a manner suited to the vibe-intensive experience throughout.
At the center of Death Magic, one finds the seemingly companion “Nightsong of the Sea” and “I Watch the Sea.” The former lulls the listener to into a sort of semi-consciousness with its blissed-out lo-fi, but when it comes around, “I Watch the Sea” is immediately more abrasive, incorporating feedback Sonic Youth-style for purposeful abrasion even before it moves into its section of full-on jamming. Its six and a half minutes are among the rougher-edged on the album as a whole, but The Mountain Movers prove more than able to contain the fire they light, turning around in the last 30 seconds of the track in order to shift back to the chorus, like it ain’t no thing.
But it is, and you can find out for yourself by listening to the track on the player below, courtesy of Safety Meeting, which again, has the album out this Friday, Aug. 28. More info on the record follows the stream.
Although five years have passed since Apple Mountain, the Mountain Movers’ last full length album, the band has been working steadily, releasing a half dozen 7” EP’s and cassettes. Over the last couple years their line-up has stabilized, one of incredible chemistry, and with every live performance the band’s interpretations of Dan Greene’s song writing have become increasingly direct, focused, and tonally powerful. The result is the highly anticipated new full-length album, Death Magic.
Many bands described as “lo-fi” only begin that way, and as the artist improves, so does the level of fidelity. But the Mountain Movers have upended the usual trajectory. After their ambitious and incredibly realized album Let’s Open Up The Chest (2008), a hi-fidelity studio production, subsequent releases were grounds for experimentation and home recording, resulting in a sound that some might call lo-fi. For the Mountain Movers, this experimentation was a quest for an elusive tone, a far-off texture, and anyone who has seen their live shows over the last few years has witnessed the Mountain Movers distill their formula into something organic, pure, and unmasked. To make this album, the band set up in the modest basement studio of former member John Miller, whose production is live, transparent, and captures the feeling of what may be Greene’s best song writing to date. Death Magic is not another over-produced, ultra-digital pile of overdubs and effects. Rather, these ten tracks document an inspired, unified performance—fuzzed out, pounding, and hypnotic.