Time Is a Mountain: Time Is a Mountain
If there's nothing terribly revolutionary about the idea of a keyboards-bass-drums trio, Time Is a Mountain nevertheless goes a long way towards reinvigorating the concept. It's all in the enthusiasm with which keyboardist Tomas Hallonsten, drummer Andreas Werliin, and bassist Johan Berthling dig into the recording's seven tracks. Werliin's a fabulous and resourceful drummer, for one, who animates the recording with endless reserves of imagination, forcefulness, and dexterity, and Hallonsten plays with an equal measure of free-form abandon and invention. It falls to Berthling, then, to be the stabilizing presence at the storm's center, and it's a role he's more than well-equipped to perform. The band's never needlessly showy, yet at the same time isn't shy about amplifying the music's impact with a spirited attack.
Ostensibly the brainchild of Hallonsten, Time Is a Mountain isn't a band predicated upon random improvisation. Instead, each song provides a compositional skeleton that the three musicians thoughtfully and telepathically build upon. The way the trio gradually escalates the intensity level in “Clear-Out Clouds” is a marvel to behold (a strategy revisited in “Tempi Campi”). As Werliin and Berthling establish a solid foundation, Hallonsten first sketches out the melodic material and then gradually transforms his keyboard sound into something more fluid and guitar-like. With the heat rising, the music builds dynamically, the drummer attacking his kit more ferociously and the overall sound assuming a neo-psychedelic tone as it flirts ever so dangerously with chaos.
“Wooden Keys” again finds Hallonsten bringing a guitar-like sound to the recording, in this case complementing his organ chords and synth textures with a solo that exudes the kind of distortion and pitch-shifting ability normally associated with a six-string. One comes away from the recording constantly surprised by the human-like cry he's able to coax from his machines. At times, Time Is a Mountain's sound gravitates in the direction of wild prog-psychedelia (e.g., the on-fire “Tempi Campi”) and in so doing puts considerable distance between its playing and the jazz-oriented style of the standard keyboards-led trio.
Enhancing the recording is stylistic range: loose in feel, “Clavier” wends a funkier path that affords Berthling room to maneuver and thread a generous number of serpentine phrases into the spaces created by his partners, while “Magicien,” warmed by organ chords and soft synth textures, unfolds in slow, dirge-like manner. “Tunnels in Time” even sees the trio tackling dub and doing so more-than-credibly, especially when studio production treatments are applied liberally to give the trio's playing a raw'n'rootsy feel. Adding to the recording's appeal is the trio's awareness of the value of concision: the forty-two-minute running time feels just about right—not too much, but not too little either.