Mammoth Grove, Suncatcher: Taking the Long Road

mammoth grove suncatcher

Calgary heavy psych three-piece Mammoth Grove make their full-length debut with Suncatcher. Recorded in May 2014 and issued late in 2015, it’s a nine-song/46-minute collection self-released on CD that maintains the live, natural feel of the band’s two prior EPs, 2012’s Taste of What’s to Come (review here) and 2011’s self-titled (review here), but arrives with an immediately distinguishing element as well in the shared vocal duties between guitarist Devan Forster, bassist Tad Hynes and drummer Kurtis Urban. It seems to be Forster in the lead role at least most of the time if not all of it, but Hynes and Urban join in for backing harmonies on songs like “Gateway” that add a ’70s progressive feel to what are otherwise somewhat understated grooves.

Indeed, much of Suncatcher seems to thrive on playing seemingly disparate ideas off each other in mood or instrumental theme. Opener “The Storm” and “Sun Dance” create a sense of space that “Long Road” and “Rollin'” push against in swaggering, swinging fashion, and while distinctively weighted, Mammoth Grove‘s tones are never overblown, so the end result is almost like a shoegaze band decided to look up and start having a good time. Suncatcher bleeds that spirit. It’s evident in the starts and stops of “Choppin’ off Goblins,” and the sparsely-guitared back half of “Sun Dance,” held together by drums and vocal harmonies as it builds back to the earlier chorus. Even in titles like “Choppin’ off Goblins,” “Rollin'” and “Burnin'” — the album also ends with “Kirstin,” but one doubts it’s actually about somebody named Kirsting — Suncatcher is open in its informality, and that winds up being one more inviting aspect as the tracks play out across its span.

There’s no pretense about any of it. Even in grandly harmonized moments in “Burnin’,” “Gateway” or the chorus of “Long Road,” Suncatcher holds to its organic, stage-ready feel. Prior outings were recorded live, and there are flourishes of Echoplex effects and instrumental layering throughout that make it seem more like basic tracks were built on in the studio before vocals were laid down, but there’s a vibrancy at work nonetheless. “Long Road” doesn’t just pretend to have vitality, it actually has it, and as Mammoth Grove make their way through the midsection of the album with “Rollin'” and “Burnin’,” that doesn’t diminish. From “The Storm” onward, they seem intent on bridging the divides they’ve set up, between the natural and constructed, the grand and humble, brash and contemplative. The fact that they’re hard to pin between one or the other of any of those sides, and the fact that the songwriting is strong enough to carry them as they play to these different sides, make Suncatcher all the more successful.


Hooks are subtle, but made for repeat visits, and that’s another factor that begins with the bass/drum unfolding of “The Storm” and continues through the opening salvo of “Long Road” and “Sun Dance,” which begins quieter and moves fluidly into its still-upbeat-but-more-spacious second half en route to the momentum building of “Rollin'” and “Burnin'” that sets up what feels like it might be intended as a vinyl side switch as “Gateway” and “Choppin’ off Goblins” take hold. Not that the flow doesn’t continue, but the classic boogie at the core of “Gateway” and the higher-impact starts and stops of “Choppin’ off Goblins” — which vocally reminds of a shoutier The Golden Grass, who’d not yet made their debut when Suncatcher was recorded — feel distinct from what came before them, and all the more so as they make their way toward the closing duo of “Silver Lagoon” and “Kirstin.”

Mood shifts considerably on that closing duo, which one into the next also comprise the two longest cuts on Suncatcher at 6:48 and 7:12, respectively. “Silver Lagoon” picks up as it moves toward its middle third, but drops back again to a slow-swirling psychedelic blues as it turns over to classic lead guitar and bass work and shifts into a quiet verse and a crescendo finish that makes it clear the swagger preceding wasn’t just about empty sonic boasting. The track bleeds directly into “Kirstin,” with its sparse opening guitar and backing effects setting up Mammoth Grove‘s most spacious feel throughout. Its feel is different because of that intro, but the verse/chorus substance of “Kirstin” isn’t outlandishly different from an earlier cut like “Burnin'” or “The Storm,” but it makes a big finish in its last minute with crashing, kicking drums and sustained harmonies that close Suncatcher on one of its larger notes.

As a whole, it makes a cohesive ending and summarizes the breadth of the songs before, but as part of that, it also maintains that somewhat restrained feel, aware of its place on the proverbial dance floor. As Mammoth Grove skillfully tightrope that delicate balance without falling, their awaited debut long-player, even approaching two years since it was put to tape, both pays off the considerable promise of their earlier EPs and offers further intrigue as to what avenues they might take as they continue to grow. Some of their methods are familiar, but Suncatcher is nonetheless a brew working from its own recipe.

Mammoth Grove, Suncatcher (2015)

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Mammoth Grove on Bandcamp

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