On Friday October 12th New Haven veterans, Mountain Movers, celebrated the release of Pink Skies, their 7th album and second consecutive on Chicago based label Trouble In Mind Records. The album looks to build upon the critical acclaim of last year’s self-titled LP, while continuing to push the aural envelope. Band members Dan Greene (guitar, vocals, organ), Rick Omonte (bass), Kryssi Battalene (lead guitar), and Ross Menze (drums) are not only skilled performers in their own right, but each are students of the world of music, collectively melding their preferred sounds culled from genres, generations, and global locales. From the motorik rhythms of Can and Cluster to the stinging psych drenched riffs of Keiji Haino and Kawabata Makoto, the small state quartet brings a rich tapestry of sounds from this world and beyond. Tonight was a treat for all those friends, family, and fans in attendance but before the Elm City veterans took the stage, the duo of Ash and Herb lulled and looped us all with some far out free folk psychedelic jams. Below you will find a review of Pink Skies, much of which was performed live at The State House in New Haven, CT as part of their record release show, as well as photos from this performance.
The lead track from Pink Skies, aptly titled “Freeway”, sonically conjures up imagery of a single car chugging down an empty highway. The deep bass line and sparse snare and hi-hat work back and forth together propelling the vehicle down the road, picking up speed as it gains momentum. Almost inaudible guitar licks turn into louder fluttering sustains eventually resulting in frenetic feedback that has this vehicle recklessly hurtling through space ready to jump the rails at any moment. Just as the inevitable fiery crash is upon us, the brakes are pumped and we’re back under control, but now joined by additional vehicles. Each fall into formation and begin jostling aggressively for position, scraping chrome fenders against side panels as once again the sound of screeching tires take over. With one final lick from Battalene’s telecaster the field erupts in smoke, shattered glass, twisted metal, and chaos left in its wake. The ground rumbles beneath your feet, the smoke clears and the dust settles only to reveal the original lone vehicle emerge without so much as a scratch on it’s shiny exterior. As it turns out they were in control all along.
Pulling on the reigns a bit, slowing the tempo and introducing vocals, “Snow Drift” staggers back and forth with squinted eyes and a head hung low. Greene delivers the narrative lyrics in a deadpan pragmatism that sways with a slow cadence behind him. The unsteady driving sounds match the words themselves as they describe Greene attempting to navigate city streets in a blinding snowstorm after his train breaks down. The swirling sonic winds pick up speed and volume as they bury the weary traveller in the snow drift until ending in an ultimate white out. I could not help but envision the vignette of a similar narrative from Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams involving soldiers trapped in a white out.
The album continues with the instrumental jam “Bridge to this World”, which is anything but of this time and place, recalling the sounds of 70’s prog and Krautrock. “My Eyes Are Always Heavy”, flows freely out of this same era as the Movers show off their dexterity in this regard, blending old and new to form their own brand of noisy yet melodic psychedelia. The epic “The Other Side of Today” ambitiously stakes out eleven and a half minutes to tell its tale. Looping guitar riffs and cycling bass lines are accented with burst from Battalene’s guitar and held down by Menze’s rhythmic rounding of toms, bass, and snare. As rhythmic oscillations repeat with slight variations each time the heavy earth bound mass begins to hover, just barely subverting the relentless pull of gravity that had it firmly in its grasp for the first 5-6 minutes. Shedding some of the heavier elements (bass and drums) the pared down mass spins sparkling above the ground, continually spun both clock and counter-wise like a weathervane atop a farmhouse before a twister. In the end, all are spared and we’re left with the sound of the creaky gate shuttering open and closed from the final gusts of wind.
“This City” reintroduces us to Greene’s haunting spoken lyrics as well as Battalene’s sharp and steady guitar picking that slices through the ether like bolts of lightning on a warm summer night. Her strikes are sharp and quick, sometimes vertical and other times horizontal. The adventure comes to a close as “Heavenly Forest” brings us out of the dank shaded wood and into the dry light of the sun. Its warmth can be felt from the soft tones of Greene on organ and Battalene’s more sonorous resonant licks while Omonte’s bass lines circle outwards like concentric circles in a pond from the last cast stone of the day.
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This is not a record from youngsters giving it a go, relying on energy and enthusiasm. This is an album rich with content, subtleties, and years of experience. It ebbs and flows into worlds once separated by oceans and language, now transversable by rhythms, rituals, and respect for the traditions and histories that locate us in 2018. Pink Skies is one of those albums, the best kind mind you, that gets better and better with each listen. Give it a spin…and then another…and another…you’ll thank yourself…eventually.