Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Record review: Speck Mountain - 'Badwater'

By Andrew Hertzberg

In listening to Badwater by Speck Mountain, I am reminded of the Nietzsche quote, "better know nothing than half-know many things." Researching this quote, I was led to the Wikipedia page regarding the Hedgehog and the Fox. This reference comes from an ancient Greek poem, and has been translated to "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." While many artists strive to be a fox, they become merely a jack of all trades. On their new album, Speck Mountain are clearly the hedgehog. They have found a sound that draws from ambient-pop and space-rock, and explore the depths of these subgenres without a hint of trying to break themselves of the limitations. Although not a huge leap from their previous albums, the band does find themselves with cleaner production and overall a more refined sound.

This is not a demanding album, but that doesn't necessarily detract from it. In fact, that may be one of its strengths. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon Speck Mountain, but I remember it was the song ‘Slow So Long’ that drew me in. With sparse drums, ambient background synths, warm guitar leads, and Marie-Claire Balabanian’s even warmer vocals, the song feels effortless in its seduction of your ears. The B-Side to the single, “Run, Honey, Run” was released put online recently as well, which is a bit rougher than the rest of the album, while still reflecting many similar themes.

While "Slow So Long" is the highlight of the album, the surrounding eight tracks complement the lead single with further explorations into warm and luscious textures. The album could easily work as a soundtrack accompaniment through a desert road trip as well as your significant other to lying in bed under five blankets on these below freezing January days. Other highlights on the album include the title track with its marching-bandesque drumbeat, the organ-dominating "Flares," and album closer "Watch the Storm," that builds upon itself before fading away back into the ether.

Badwater is the bands third album and is out now on Carrot Top Records; it is also streaming on soundcloud. They play at the Hideout Saturday February 9th with Weatherman and Lasers and Fast and Shit; tickets are available here.

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