Mountains: Sewn

Mirror: Still Valley
Die Stadt

Deploying acoustic instruments, field recordings, and electronics, Apestaartje cofounders Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp weave densely textured mosaics of meditative psychedelia on Sewn, their second Mountains outing. As the name suggests, a strong outdoors dimension permeates the collection, with water noises churning alongside ponderous acoustic picking in the melancholic “Bay” and insect noises appearing elsewhere. Steely accordion drones and delicately plucked acoustic guitars set the album's mood before “Simmer” sculpts a dense mass of guitar ripples and electronic shadings into a peaceful setting that strongly recalls Fennesz. Despite its penultimate placement, the thirteen-minute “Hundred Acre” is obviously the album's centerpiece. Initially as drone-like as the other pieces, it slowly swells into a gargantuan, lumbering mass of crackling waves and shuddering tones before “Sheets” ends the album bucolically, returning it to the peaceful meadow from which it emerged.

Mirror's Still Valley is very much true to its word. Recorded by collaborators Andrew Chalk and Christoph Heemann plus Jim O'Rourke, the disc's three lulling settings (a ten-minute third added to the earlier vinyl release's pair of twenty-minute pieces) seem almost frozen in place, with oscillator glissandos glacially swooping throughout, their incessant drift subtly accented by quiet clusters of diverse minutiae. Ultimately, Still Valley functions as an aural Rorschach as much as anything: some listeners will find fifty minutes of largely unvarying sound to be maybe forty minutes more than is necessary; those who attune their habitual listening practice to the time-suspended flow of the material may profess admiration for its powers of re-calibration.

The idea driving Mirror's Still Valley may be credible but the results engage almost entirely formally; it would, however, function perfectly as accompaniment to a gallery art installation. Mountain's Sewn, on the other hand, impresses conceptually and sonically, a recording to which one returns repeatedly with no diminishment in satisfaction.

February 2006