Anyone who shares my love for ambient music will find much to enjoy with the third album from Chicago duo Mountains . Okay so the cover looks like sample from a seventies wallpaper book but the music is sort of timeless. Mountains is Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp, friends since their school days. The duo bonded over their mutual artistic and musical interests, and both ended up at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There they began exchanging musical ideas and songs , if you can call them that, which led to them founding the Apestaartje label in 1999. As their collaborations and individual projects flourished they decided to create Mountains as a vehicle for live performance. Recorded by the duo January to April 2008 at home in Brooklyn, Choral is mostly live and performed in real time, with very few overdubs needed to create the titular "choral" effect. Using acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica, melodica, cello, keyboards, electric piano, accordion, organ and various field recordings and "Other objects" the duo fashion music that may be too frugal for some tastes with some of the compositions barely raising above a tone shifting murmur but there is something warm and soothing about every track on Choral and there are many veiled details to discover. The lovely guitar strums on "Map Table" are augmented by the band `playing' ice water and books by recording the sounds of them flipping through the pages. The title track is redolent of the great Popol Vuh in the way the layers of detail are subtly gradated into the mix. "Telescope" has surprisingly jaunty strummed guitar , increasingly atonal electronic swathe's and the sound of a thunderstorm recorded in Arizona ."Add Infinity " brings to mind Cluster or Paul Schutze while "Melodica" adds in peculiar stutters over ebbing littoral electronic sounds. The oddly truncated , at under three minutes, "Sheets Two" trickles in pearly drops of sound on top of droning synths. I wouldn't call Choral a classic of the genre in the way that Eno,s Discreet Music or Ambient 1: Music for Airports is , or even 76:14 is either but Choral is a rewarding beautific listening experience for those who have the patience and the inclination. Those who don,t really should,nt be listening to music this diaphanous and challenging anyway.
You can't really have a best of 2009 without `Choral'. The hype surrounding this record was horribly off-putting, but the seductive shimmering acoustics and invigorating, glacial droning ambience was anything but.