AC2: A Mountain Is A Mouth

31 03 2009

Did you know that Bruce Peninsula is an actual peninsula located in Ontario?  I didn’t.

Bruce Peninsula is indicated in red

Bruce Peninsula is indicated in red

 

I enjoyed Bruce Peninsula’s A Mountain is a Mouth.  My first thought was that they were very unique.  A unique and pleasant combination of voices and instrumentation.  And the result is very good.  But, sadly, not super.

There are a lot of voices in BP and that leads to some really amazing stuff and some not-so-amazing stuff on A Mountain is a Mouth.  First, I think my favorite thing about BP is the pseudo-gospel backup chorus.  It gives the music a unique, haunting feel.  In fact, the music in general has a beautiful, haunting feel to it.  The chorus also compliments the lead vocals very well, and even works with the lead male vocals, which I wasn’t a huge fan of.  However, I was quite disappointed to find that effects of the chorus began to seem repetitive by the end of the album.  And there were moments when they chose to be intentionally discordant, which contributes to the unique feel of their music but which, for me, detracted from the enjoyability of the music.  Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the chorus aspect of AMIAM.  Some of the best examples of the chorus’s contribution are in the songs Steamroller, Crabapples, and Drinking All Day.

As far as instrumentation goes, I was impressed at the variety and versatility that AMIAM showed.  I suppose with as many band members as they have, it’s much more plausible to incorporate such a wide variety of sounds.  The instrumentation they chose, whether it was clapping, wind sounds, banjo or more typical rock instrumentation, always seemed to add to the effect of the song.  Very well done.

Another thing I would like to point out is that the album has a great studio sound – the technical tweaking in the studio surely served BP well on this album.  It has great potential for a live show, but it really makes me wonder how they would pull it off in person so that the songs still maintain the emotive edge that is so appealing about their music.  But then, I’m supposed to be reviewing the album, not a live performance, so I’ll drop it here.

Overall, the album connects on a fair number of songs and misses on some others, like the short, throwaway songs Satisfied and Northbound/Southbound.  Some of the songs toe the line between hit and miss, but the album is generally enjoyable.  There are definitely a few songs that will be on a regular rotation in my music collection.

So the positives include the uniquely pleasant sounds of AMIAM and my enthrallment with their backup chorus which created some very strong, memorable songs.  The negatives include some repetitiveness and some unimpressive songs.  After weighing the evidence I will say that I enjoyed the album and I will give it 3.5 stars out of 5.  

While I feel that my rating accurately reflects my feelings about the album, I want to add that I really think that it is worth listening to.  It’s a pleasant diversion from the mainstream.

 

Don’t forget to check out my new Album Club page that has general info on the Album Club and past albums!  You can find the link to it at the top of the page next the Home and About Me links.

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2 responses

31 03 2009
randaltheresa

I have only been in a real choir once. It was for the Edmonton LDS Institute and I only signed up because the girl I was dating wanted me too. But even though we broke up halfway through the season, I stuck with the class until our final concert in Calgary. There, we joined up with two other Alberta choirs to form a gigantic singing group. The first number we sang together was one that slowly built from a quiet begining to a thundering climax. I still remember how it felt when the entire three-part choir sang its first measures in booming unison: it was as if a gigantic wave of pure voices suddenly and completely engulfed me. It was a powerful and moving sensation. Bruce Penensula’s album reminded me of that experience.

Sure, listening to this album is not exactly the same as singing in a large choir, but when I put on my best headphones and crank up the volume, A mountain is a Mouth surrounds and absorbs me more than any other album I have heard for a long time. In fact, after experiencing this album (I say ‘experiencing’ because ‘listening’ doesn’t seem a powerful enough verb), all my other music seems bland by comparison.

This is an album that demands your full attention. It demands to be played at a high volume. And it demands to be heard from start to finish. To listen to it in any other way would deprive the audience from realizing its true magnificence. Sure, the songs are good in themselves, but when I first listened to a couple of them by themselves, I had now idea how much better they would be when played how I described above. Doing so transforms these individual pieces into a force of nature: a tsunami that completely engulfs and absorbs the listener. The quite introduction of “Inside/Outside” is like spotting the massive wave in the distance. Over the course of that song, the wave silently nears the shore, coming closer and closer, until the full band kicks in and the wave slams into you. For several songs, the water carries you inland over towns and forests, destroying everything in its path, until it finally quiets down enough to deposit you on the highlands during “Weave Myself a Dress.” Then the water slowly retreats over the final few songs until it disappears back into the sea.

Undoubtedly, Bruce Peninsula’s power comes directly from the voice’s of its choir, with its rock instrumentation enhancing but never overshadowing the band’s many voices. With their powerful lead singer, their group sing-alongs, their driving beats and their dark-gospel themed music, Bruce Peninsula seems to be Arcade Fire taken to its logical conclusion. I liked Neon Bible, but I absolutely love A Mountain is a Mouth.

In many ways, Bruce Peninsula is a band out of its time. The the greatest indication being their roots in gospel choirs and the early twentieth century folk musician, Alan Lomax: this music seems to be that of an nineteenth century traveling preacher calling down fire and brimstone onto the unbelievers. Also, A Mountain is a Mouth completely unconcerned with modern life, instead crafting songs about nature: mountains, floods, forest fires, and wolves.

But despite sounding like something from 1909, A Mountain is a Mouth will definitely be a front-runner when I compile a list of my favourite albums of 2009. Absolutely breathtaking.

31 03 2009
matt

This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

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