[Album Review] Black Mountain- IV
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Release Date: April 1st, 2016
Label: Jagjaguwar

The event of a new Black Mountain album bears many similarities to that of fellow Vancouverites The New Pornographers. In both cases, the “band” exists in name only, as they only occasionally come together as a group to produce music. Also, each one has numerous splinter groups (in BM’s case: Pink Mountaintops, Kodiak Deathbed, Sinoia Caves, Lightning Dust, etc.) that are far more prolific, essentially disqualifying them from the term “side project”. BM and TNP, however, differ fundamentally as to musical style. Whereas TNP’s feet are firmly planted in ‘90s alternative, BM true heart will forever remain in that post-hippie/pre-disco sweet spot.

On their first album since 2010’s ‘Wilderness Heart’ (I told you they weren’t prolific) BM shows no signs of making major stylistic shifts. The album struts its stuff with a potent combo of US country-rock and British metal/prog. Elements like funk, psychedelia and glam are added in wise measures. The exception to this early ‘70s love affair is the distinctly post-punk electronics of “You Can Dream”, but even there the analogue synths hark back to the early days of kosmische.

Both lead singers play their parts well. Stephen McBean has an English-sounding voice, making him well-suited to art pop songs like “Defector” and “Cemetery Breeding”. Amber Webber, on the other hand, can folk-croon with the best of them (witness the baroque pop of “Line Them All Up”) and then turn around and kick ass with a Patti Smith-like wail on such tracks as “Florian Saucer Attack”. Singing aside, the band manages to crank up the drama with Pink Floyd electric guitar excursions (“Space to Bakersfield”), keyboard flourishes (“Constellations”) and percussive attacks (“(Over and Over) The Chain”).

This could all be just a trip down nostalgia lane, but thanks to the creativity of McBean, Webber and company the arrangements are fresh and unexpected. Black Mountain may not be really saying anything new but they way they say it is intriguing enough.