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A Mountain of One Institute of Joy Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Proof positive that studious revision can pay serious dividends.

Mike Diver 2009

Pastiche can, more often than you might think, be mistaken for ambition. Numerous rock acts have strapped haunting ethereality to their otherwise rudimentary arrangements and proclaimed themselves prog-rock revolutionaries; a cursory investigation into their wares, though, soon reveals tried-and-tested trickery sourced from the 60s and 70s. More revivalist than forward-thinking, then.

A Mountain of One do not stand out for their uniqueness – the London-based duo of Mo Morris and Zebden Jameson recall the swallow-you-up soundscapes of Pink Floyd at their most immersive, and even touch upon styles recently exhumed by New York’s Yeasayer, particularly that Fleetwood-Mac-goes-feral feel that wells up from somewhere you never knew existed before it started making these strange rumblings. But such touchstones don’t lead to limited-interest mimicry – they’re the necessary portal to the pair’s deeply satisfying concoctions.

For while A Mountain of One’s modus operandi isn’t anything new, their care and attention to the finest details gifts this debut collection – arriving after well-received 12” releases – a real sense of quality. Unhurried and uncluttered, every nuance deliberate in its employment, the album’s steady pace and slow-reveal sequencing keeps the listener in its grasp. Tracks aren’t exactly segued as if to be played in one sitting, experienced as a start-to-finish work, but soft introductory seconds regularly break to propulsive percussion and drone-laced guitar tones. In Our Lifetime, Highs of the Sun, Who By Fire – many pieces stick to similar stylistic forms, but familiarity never breeds contempt (Well, the need to skip on a track).

Highlights will vary from listener to listener depending on their own progressive preferences, but to these ears Bones has a woozy, almost Beta Band quality to its retelling of psychedelic tradition – slap some gloss on it and you’ve got MGMT – and Lie Awake’s soothing organ tones stir thoughts of Yes, albeit when the capes-and-all outfit weren’t over-indulging too much. Sky is Folding mixes mysticism with a deft ear for melody well, and serves as a fine album opener.

Original it’s not, strictly speaking, but A Mountain of One’s influences-indebted debut does what every great evolutionary step should: take enough from the past to make the change seem entirely natural, but put a sizeable enough stamp of their own on proceedings to ensure ears are tuned as sharply to their tunes as those that came before. Proof positive, then, that studious revision can pay serious dividends.

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