Mt Mountain: Centre, a great psych-rock kraut album!
Mt Mountain photo by Sam Eascott
Mt Mountain is an australian band, they have released their 4th album, Centre, this Friday February 26th. It’s a new step with their new label, the Londonian’s Fuzz Club Records. We were lucky enough to discuss with the group about this new album and their music. Members of the band are: Steve Bailey (vocals, organ, flute), Thomas Cahill (drums), Brendan Shanley (bass); Derrick Treatch (guitar) and Glen Palmer (guitar, synthe and has designed the albums covers).
Mt Mountain, mirror of a new dynamic on the australian music scene
Mt Moutain band members come from Perth and they are still living there. Perth’s music scene is fascinating but « the biggest music scenes and cities are on the East coast » reminds the band. « You need 4 hours flight and the cost of travel from here makes it hard to get out of Perth to play« . However, the band was lucky because for their first tour, they shared the stage with the famous german rock trio Kadavar. « It gave us good exposure around the country« . Platforms like Bandcamp « have also been the biggest help for us getting our self released LPs out » adds the band.
It’s true that today the Australian scene is dynamic with a lot of eclectic bands and artists. A new generation with different styles like RVG, Alex Lahey, Ben Whiting or Ecca Vandal(who lives in Melbourne). We could see some of them in St Nazaire festival, Les Escales, in the Summer of 2018. Of course, « bands like King Gizzard running their label and supporting a lot of bands within psych (and outside of that scene) will definitely inspire a huge generation of new music that we will listen to into the future« .
Another point is crucial for the band: » we have a really solid community radio scene all over Australia as well that supports music in a way that the mainstream services don’t and they give exposure to things that are a little less ‘normal’ to big audiences around the country« .
Centre, a fourth album more Krautrock for Mt Mountain?
Mt Mountain self released their first EP, OMED, in 2013, and only few years later, in 2016 their first LP, Cosmos Terros. Then, they signed with English Cardinal Fuzz for their albums Dust (2017) and Golden Rise (2018). Their first English label helped them approach the European rock psych scene. Neverthelesss, their new opus, Centre, is released on Fuzz Club Records. « They have been one of our favourite labels for a long time so it was an obvious choice once the record was finished. For this album it was also the first label we sent the record to, so it was amazing to get such a quick and positive response« .
The main Mt Mountain’s musical identity is rock psych but with a deep Krautrock’s touch. « There’s a shift towards more Kraut influence in this record » confesses Glen Palmer. The band worked more on the rhythms and often uses what we call Motorik. You can find it with the german bands Neu! , Can or Faust. The Motorik beat is 4/4 times and with a moderate pace. This hypnotic pattern is repeated each bar throughout the song.
Mt Mountain’s main influence is Moon Duo, the Californian Rock psych band and Japonese collective Acid Mothers Temple. « A lot of this record has for sure come from playing with bands like Acid Mothers Temple & Moon Duo…. Watching their live sets inspired a lot of what we wanted to bring into the mix of our current set« . When I tell them I find a Black Angels’ perfume in the track Two Minds, they seem no surprised! « The Black Angels were definitely a huge influence in the early days« .
Centre, an album from the collective and Jam sessions
The new Mt Mountain‘s album, Centre, took a little bit more time than the others. They were indeed one release a year between 2016 and 2018! However, I told them it’s not a race with King Gizzard! « We recorded the album in two parts and released a 7″ inch with two of the songs from the first sessions » explains Glen Palmer. This 7′ with Tassels, which opens and Deluge, a nice instrumental which closes the new album, was released last year. It was on Six Tonnes de Chair, the French savoyard label. Then, Centre was recorded and mixed by Ron Pollard, in North Dandalup, a one hour drive from the south of Perth. The band loves James Plotkin’s mastering, « a highlight« .
« It’s been nice to have a slower approach with this record. You can get caught up in the release cycle pretty quickly and i think you can start to make decisions based on making things happen quickly instead of letting them happen more naturally. It’s been a much less stressful approach« . It reminds me the song Aplomb! For Stephen Bailey, “‘Aplomb’ is essentially the voice that I hear in my head, reminding me to not rush and slow down, and to have the confidence to bring this into practice in everyday life« .
The album comes from a collective work. « We tend to try to write as a band in a room together as much as possible. Often starting from long form jams from a simple riff or idea that is then distilled down to what we like best about them. It’s a simpler approach to writing in some ways but It means everyone gets to write their parts and bring in whatever their influences are at the time ». The band tries to find some of the live vibes with their sound. The song Peregrination is a good example: « a ‘jam song’ that evolves slowly over months of playing with no real direction in place until it finds its own structure. At the end of recording, the path to get there has been stretched so long that there is barely any recollection of how the song came into existence in the first place”.
Then, I wanted to know how the group chose the order of the songs, instrumental or not… »A lot of listening! haha….. It’s one of the hardest parts or at least takes the most time for me. I think it’s pretty important to us to have the album creates a longer listening experience. I’m usually thinking about someone sitting down to put the record on to listen from start to finish. It’s definitely what informs the order the most ».
Centre, a kind of concept album about God and religion ?
Mt Mountain started to record the album with no concepts in mind. « When we’re writing we just do demo’s from a room recording from our rehearsal space so it’s sometimes hard to hear or understand the lyrics as a whole. So it’s much easier after recording to come up with a concept that is based more around what subjects or themes that seem to come up the most throughout the songs and try to link them together in a way once everything is in place« .
That’s true that a big part of the lyrics is based around the idea of God, religion and Stephen Bailey’s experiences. He describes how, thematically, much of Centre is a dissection of faith – both spiritual and secular – and his personal relationship to it. « The album for me, lyrically, is mostly about my experience of religion. It explores these concepts and the rules that were told to me from childhood to adulthood and my thoughts on my own connection to them. Similar themes arise between the tracks whether it be lyrically or structural, both a play on repetition and simplicity« . The album’s title, Centre, results from this theme: « I guess you can consider that (like)a centre point for a lot of people & something they keep coming back to as a reference point« .
On the opening track, Tassels, Stephen Bailey reflects: »I feel a disconnect to the idea of afterlife and all the rules in order to get you there. But I’m also not certain of anything, which is what this song is about« . He gives some examples about two other songs, Second Home and Hands Together. The taut, driving Second Home is a continued attempt to make sense of that disconnect with the great beyond ….“It’s a play on afterlife, our second home not being heaven or hell but here on earth”. The track Hands together « is about the end of the world and non-Christian people praying in uncertain times and ultimately nothing coming of it. The lyrics in the chorus – “Oh let go, only approaching the stone” – meaning the gravestone”.
Epilogue: Mt Mountain’s future plans…after Covid!
In a way, Mt Mountain did not suffer that much from Covid-19. Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world! Unfortunately, today, a lot of plans are uncertain. « We really want to make it back around Aus and hopefully to the EU / UK to play this album live as soon as possible« . We cross fingers with the band! »We’ve also continued to write since finishing up this record so we will hopefully have some time to go back into the studio soon! » adds Glen Palmer.
4 Mt Mountain’s members have solo projects! Stepehen Bailey released, under his name, 2 albums, Silo in 2017 and 9 in 2019. Brendan Shanley, Thomas Cahill have their own projects and Glen Palmer has an ambient synth project called Slow Point. Congrats to them for their new satisfying album. After a delightful album, Flying Moon in Space and before The Underground Youth, I’m sure Mt Mountain can please many new fans!