Mountains, Mountains

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

When Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp founded their label Apestaartje 10 years ago, their first releases featured the copious crackle of turn-of-the-millennium glitch and "microsound," reflecting a focus they described as "primarily on computer composition." Before long, though, an interest in drones and acoustic timbres was warming up the label's music, and today, recording as the duo Mountains, Anderegg and Holtkamp have swung so heavily into the realm of wood, resin and steel that you could be forgiven for failing to notice the faint veneer of digital processing suffusing their finger-picked guitar and cello drone.

Like John Fahey and Tim Hecker making music in a wildlife preserve.

Echoes of John Fahey animate "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass," the 17-minute centerpiece of their debut album, released in 2005. The song begins as a halting interchange between lone guitar notes and buffed sinewaves that recalls late Talk Talk's most pensive moments; as the guitar playing picks up speed, the hiss of field recordings descends like mist. Despite its length, "Down Under" is by far the most melodic offering on the album, which elsewhere immerses itself in rich, resonant drones. "Paper Windmill" weaves plucked guitar, slowly bowed cello and shimmering electronics into a dense but supple material, where "Blown Glass Typewriter" runs the guitar through a digital sieve, dissolving it into a spray of harmonics. "Sunday 07.25.05 (Live at Tonic)," recorded in performance at a New York nightclub, revisits the scuffed static and dust-mote meanderings of Apestaartje's origins, but by halfway through the 21-minute piece, all that flutter and whisper has flowered into a field of held guitar notes and processed acoustic tones throwing off a rosy glow.