Mountains – Air Museum

written by: May 11, 2011
Release Date: May 10, 2011


It’s hard to think of a more appropriate name than Air Museum for a band like Mountains. Not to be confused with the ’70s rock band Mountain—“Mississippi Queen” being the group’s biggest hit—Mountains’ approach is significantly more delicate.

Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp have been creating folk-infused electronic music since 2005 Self-Titled, and each new release sees the duo pushing itself in new directions. Mountains’ 2009 album Choral saw Anderegg and Holtkamp garner attention for making their most streamlined album up to that point. The Brian Eno comparisons began rolling in—and rightfully so—but Choral was anything but an homage. The album displayed Anderegg and Holtkamp had the ability to take field music, electronics and acoustic instruments to create a sound that was quite progressive, considering the limitations of ambient music.

Air Museum is proof positive that Mountains has no interest in stagnating, yet this does not mean it is necessarily a step forward.

For the first time Anderegg and Holtkamp recorded the acoustic instruments to analog instead digital, which sounds like a sonic improvement. Unfortunately, these instruments are coated in effects that mask the natural warmth the analog recording could have given them.

Despite the fact Mountains took a new approach to the recording of the instruments, Air Museum is possibly the most electronic focused album in the band’s catalog. “Sequel” starts with pulsating electronics, utilizing the acoustic instruments as subtle accents. It pays off, showing that Anderegg and Holtkamp can adeptly integrate both natural and processed elements without it feeling misplaced.

“Newsprint” uses a field recording that gives the track a washed-out feel. The elements that Mountains’ add to the piece are small and display the control that the duo has over the movements it creates.

Anderegg and Holtkamp have a history of recording their albums in real-time and using very minor edits afterward. It is an interesting technique, but it possibly contributes to certain songs feeling rushed. The end of Air Museum’s opening track “January 17” begins heading a new direction and ends before the avenue can be explored. Several other tracks end with fade-outs, making it seem as if the duo was unsure of how to end their compositions.

Consequently, there is little cohesion to Air Museum. Instead of creating an album with distinct flow, Air Museum seems more like a compilation of tracks than one stand-alone unit.

Mountains have proven over the course of its full-length albums that it doesn’t enjoy staying in one place for long. Each new record brings in new sonic elements and refuses to rehash past successes. However, Air Museum’s execution does not meet its ambition. It feels as if Anderegg and Holtkamp are on the cusp of greatness, but they need to fully commit to make it there.

Mountains – Air Museum Tracklist:

  1. “January 17”
  2. “Thousand Square”
  3. “Newsprint”
  4. “Sequel”
  5. “Blue Lanterns on East Oxford”
  6. “Backwards Crossover”
  7. “Live at the Triple Door”