Thursday, 16 September 2010

Black Mountain @ Academy 3, Wednesday 15th September

What do you call something that hangs around with musicians?

No, I don’t mean the one about the drummer. For a start Josh Wells’ thumping time-keeping merits not one iota of derision.

Instead I’m talking about the classic set-staller that is: ‘technical difficulties’. Fortunately Canadian quintet Black Mountain aren’t stricken too badly by Matt Camirand’s bass amp malfunction and, after a few mutterings about it having been a long year, we’re away.

Straight into a couple from the third record, including title track ‘Wilderness Heart’, and the immediate wonder is how a band whose sophomore effort In The Future was a 2008 Polaris Music Prize finalist, behind Caribou's Andorra, are only attracting enough punters to mostly fill the Academy 3 venue.

It is that second album that dominates a typically cohesive set. ‘Angels’ and ‘Wucan’ welcome a smattering of nodding heads, before ‘Tyrants’ fully brings to light Jeremy Schmidt, who bears a passing resemblance to his contemporary keys controller in fellow drone rock merchants Dungen, and his Moogs. They shimmer and soothe in cosmic layers as a bass addled synchronicity is supplemented by persistent guitar noodlings, courtesy of Stephen McBean, who would surely be a contender for the proposed Beards of Manchester charity calendar, if he were a resident.

The instrumental break also sees singer Amber Webber adopting the moody musician look – borderline disinterested, or perhaps just zoning out of the real world; her mind on a similar sonic excursion to the audience’s; remaining inanimate as her bandmates act as tour guides in a psychedelic trip.

An oft-conjured image is one of euphoric escape down an ongoing dusty highway; plains either side until you reach a steep cliff-face. You know, the Butch Cassidy type of scene. But, after taking a mellow country fried turn akin to Jefferson Airplane and then finishing with the psyche-tinged classic rock of ‘Stormy High’ and ‘Don’t Run Our Hearts Around’, the encore shapes up as more of a sci-fi soundtrack. The quarter of an hour long ‘Bright Lights’ constructs, to my mind, an intergalactic exploration: anticipation, lift-off, touchdown, standoff encounter, then eye-opening discovery.

However you envisage it, this is music to take you to another place.

Words & Pictures: Ian Pennington

1 comment:

  1. Personally I'm not a fan. They're a little too Sabbath/Zep and I find the songwriting dull Nicely written article though ;-)