Mountains - Biography
Since the early part of this decade Brooklyn duo Mountains have carved out a unique niche in underground music. Melding elements of American folk, minimalist drone, improvisation, and classic ambient electronics, Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp create abstract music that is at once challenging and extremely engaging. Rooted equally in rich textural detail and engrossing melodic development, Mountains’ music stands with ambient masters from Eno to Fennesz while cultivating a uniquely American sound through the use of fingerpicked acoustic guitar.
Anderegg and Holtkamp have been friends since their teenage years and both went on to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. They exchanged musical ideas during this time, which resulted in the formation of the Apestaartje label in 1999. Both artists released solo work on the label as well as releasing music by Fourcolor, Nicolas Collins, Town and Country, Minamo, and Janek Schaefer to name just a few. It wasn’t until 2005 that the duo’s first collaborative work as Mountains saw the light of day.
The self-titled full-length won the duo immediate and well-deserved praise. Immediately setting forth a succinct and highly personal aesthetic, these four pieces employ acoustic guitar, cello, accordion, piano, synthesizers, and processed field recordings to create a dense, swirling sonic space defined by harmonically rich drones, John Fahey-inspired fingerpicked guitar melodies, and crackling musique concrete electronics. The music is very carefully measured, but also defined by a sense of improvised spontaneity. This aspect, along with the prominent acoustic guitars, move Mountains away from the academic avant-garde toward a kind of electronically enhanced post-folk music.
After touring in 2005 and releasing an extremely limited tour CDR, Mountains return in 2006 with its second full-length. Sewn picks up where the debut left off. This time the duo presents their music across eight shorter fragments. Still utilizing a bevy of acoustic instrumentation augmented by various synths, field recordings, and computer processing, Mountains again craft a surreal world of heavy drones, textural drift, and melodic, fractured folk music. After the initial noise-drone of the opening track the record dives right into a complex acoustic guitar pattern and dubbed-out percussion. The record moves through various takes on these two main aspects of Mountains’ sound with mesmerizing results. Sewn is arguably the best place to start with this group.
Both artists maintain solo recording careers alongside Mountains. Anderegg has released records of abstract electronics as well as a collection of earnest psych-folk. Holtkamp explores processed field recordings and analog synth drone on his solo efforts. With this extra activity in place, Mountains took two years to release its next album. Mountains Mountains Mountains appeared in 2008 as a vinyl only release for the Catsup Plate label. The record continues to expand on the Mountains template of spatially minded drone work, layers of percolating processed field recordings, and beautiful acoustic guitar playing.
2009 was a big year for the duo. Signing to the Thrill Jockey label Mountains released the glorious Choral. Rightfully hailed as a masterpiece, the record is a deft execution of everything the group is about. Over six tracks of deep rustic drone, clattering percussion, and gorgeous melodies Choral takes shape as one of the most organic and dynamic electroacoustic drone records ever released. Deeply textured and carefully measured, these extended pieces merge the acoustic with the electronic, the organic with the synthetic, to arrive at a future-forward folk that truly sounds like nothing else out there.