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Album Tue Jan 22 2013

Wild Mountain Time: Visiting Mountains' Centralia

An experience with Centralia, the new LP from Brooklyn electronic duo Mountains, out today on Thrill Jockey Records. Mountains will play The Hideout on Wednesday February 27, at 9pm with White/Light with Frank Rosaly and Lucky Dragons.

Mountains - Centralia Cover Art - 323.jpg

1) "Sand"

8:08am — Just waking up to catch the sunrise from my perch high in the Blue Canadian Rockies. It's cold up here, but the sun feels warm. Could just be the altitude. Soft electronic drones and gently oscillating synthesizers bring me to my feet. After a few minutes, a meandering synth melody leads the charge of layers and layers of sound. I feel intense sunlight hitting my face. Before long, bowed cellos enter and gather strength, and soon there's so much texture that it's tough to know where the acoustic instruments begin and the electronic ones start. I gather up my belongings and start to walk.

2) "Identical Ship"

An acoustic guitar rings bright and clear, its wooden tones marking a sharp contrast to the slow-building cragginess of this morning's synthesizers. Complex chord structures float in and out in the vein of John Fahey, though I'm far from the comforts and tradition of Appalachia. Increasingly dense layers of washed-out synths under the surface somewhere, but the guitar is the focus. By this point I've started off in search of breakfast nearer to the summit. It appears to be good walking music so far, and it fits my stride.

3) "Circular C"

Guitar's gone again. No luck with breakfast, either. But now I hear the ping of programmed synths again, this time with freely arpeggiating melodies and slowly transforming textures. And — Aha! A berry bush found, while a clutch of fingerpicked guitars come in once more and add even more dense layers to the gentle din.

As the steady drone of synth, piano, and guitar shimmers in and out of focus, I notice the air getting thin. I might need to stop and rest my breathing soon. My mind wanders from one fleeting melody or texture to the other, unsure of which to latch onto at any particular moment. It's incredibly pleasant, and when I am able to pick a single texture out from underneath the fog, it wanders away from me again. The sun gets hotter as I start my climb to the summit. Must be getting closer to noon.

4) "Tilt"

A slow waltz of strummed acoustic guitar notes fill my eardrums now, changing tempo at will. Have I been going around in circles? I try not to look down — too dizzying. After about two and a half minutes, the guitars hit a more fast-paced groove while something that sounds like vibraphone helps guide the melody along as the synths (or is it the sun?) gather strength again. The sounds are getting heavier. I try not to worry; it feels like I'm getting somewhere. The white noise of synths near the end of this track sound like water lapping onto the rocks below, with an intense wind kicking up behind. I must be near the river.

5) "Propeller"

A staccato panorama of synths hit me as I walk near the bottom of the waterfall. The water is cool and clean, and little flecks of sunlight latch onto the surface of this small and burbling alpine river. Looks a little bit like gold, but I know there's little more to be found in these parts anymore. I notice a small plane fly overhead, its prop engine in rhythmic lock-step with the soft strike of looped synth pads which, if only for a moment, overtake the violent sound of water on rock. It seems as if the previous sounds I've heard today have built up to this moment, and I believe I am at the apex of my journey. I think I'll set up camp here.

As the track begins to wane, there's still no words or percussion to speak of (not that I've heard any all day), but the pulsing rhythms I can hear from this clutch of warm electronic instruments is enough to keep me grounded. After all, I tell myself, I came up to this mountain for its beautiful texture and cosmic ambience. Drums are useless outside the city, anyway, I remember.

6) "Liana"

Playful, nautical-sounding synths wash over as I hop in the river for a quick swim. The sun warms my face. Synth pads burble in and out of focus, quicker now. They appear to be in dialogue with one another. Though still pleasant, what I hear now is more aggressive and its changes are more fast-paced. A deep burn of overdriven guitar dominates the landscape now, its feedback hanging in the pine branches far above my head. Starting to get a little nervous I might not find my way back down.

7) "Living Lens"

Relief, more peaceful now. The synth pads, front and center as in the beginning, are once again meditative, but carry a more ominous tone than this morning. As the sun sets, the synthesizers lock together into one slowly vibrating note, at once haunting and life-affirming. Looking at the other peaks looming in the distance, I wonder what other journeys lay in store for these climes, among these transformative sounds. With the summit in sight, I set my thoughts on tomorrow and feel unafraid.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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