BLACK MOUNTAIN: IN THE FUTURE (2008)
1) Stormy High; 2) Angels; 3) Tyrants; 4) Wucan; 5) Stay Free; 6) Queens Will Play; 7) Evil Ways; 8) Wild Wind; 9) Bright Lights; 10) Night Walks; 11*) Bastards Of Light; 12*) Thirteen Walls; 13*) Black Cat.
We here on Planet Earth are a continually bored race, one that, for reasons unknown and fiercely disputed, has been given the possibility of expanding our minds beyond the bare concept of species preservation and reproduction — and has discovered, much to its own frustration, that there really are no objects in this world worthy of the application of these expanded minds. So we have invented ourselves this thing called «A-R-T» to play around with — extracting previously non-existent sounds, images, and word combinations out of our swollen consciences, feeding our neighbours with the stuff and imagining that we are doing a great service to the Universe, even though there is not the slightest bit of evidence that the Universe actually gives a shit about it.
These thoughts may not only be banal, but also off target — yet, for some reason, I never stumbled upon them when listening to
The reference to Hawkwind, by the way, was not off the cuff. In The Future justifies its title by giving us a spacier, sci-fi-er picture than the debut album, with more emphasis on trippy studio effects, Mellotrons, astral lyrics, and even the sleeve cover. Like before,
I wish I could rave and rant about how the opening crunchy riff of 'Stormy High' blows my mind to tiny smithereens, smothers them in the fat sizzling oil of the Mellotrons and feeds them back to me on the acoustic waves of the band's terrifying choir of Valkyries. I cannot; this kind of rant should be left to intelligent, but ignorant fourteen-year-old nerds for whom
You have to brace yourself for a lot of long songs — for leaden stoner riffs alternating with astral keyboard solos, for walls-of-sound alternating with quiet minimalistic drums-and-bass passages, for heaps of noise materializing into Grateful Dead-like jams and dissipating back into heaps of noise; for poppy verses and choruses mutating into nauseating repetitive mantras; for Fairport Convention and Black Sabbath sharing the same kennel. Puzzled you will be; bored, no.
Pretty much all of this can be found in the 16 minutes of 'Bright Lights', whose many different sections recall the grotesque, flipped out whatever-rock of Amon Düül II, except less technical. Let me quote Thom Jurek of the All-Music Guide on that: "Fuzzy electrics, shimmering acoustics, and trance-like keyboards flit in and out between the alternating vocals of McBean and Webber. The music picks up intensity, shifts direction numerous times, and careens across the rock and folkscapes of rock's history from the late '60s through the '70s with great focus, wit, and ambition." Perfect description. The only aspect of this that Mr. Jurek has politely swept under the carpet is: WHAT'S THE POINT? If we want to careen across the rock and folkscapes of rock's history, why not go straight to the source?
To understand why, let us take one of the album's best songs, 'Wucan'. We know the vibe; similar musical landscapes of astral travel have been laid down by Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and their colleagues and followers in a thick layer. But we do not know the hook — a morose, Eastern-sounding organ riff interweaving with an anthemic art-rock guitar riff. It is a good, strong, memorable hook that neither Hawkwind nor Pink Floyd could have fathered (the former would have drowned it behind a wall of distortion and other instruments, the latter did not much care for repetitive guitar riffs like these in the first place). Is it «Trademark Black Mountain Sound»? No; these guys have no real trademarks to call their own. But it is a cool sound that they arrived at under the influence, but through their own free will.
The same goes for everything else. There are no rip-offs. There is no deep meaning, there is little adequacy — they make big, bold, bright statements that have no independent value and can only be relevant to those having, up till now, lived in a vacuum; but there is juicy music made here, with talent to burn and pleasures to reap. I like the cooky falsetto on 'Stay Free', the tired"Lay your halo down..." on 'Angels', the big ugly drumming and the good old «woman tone» on '