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Alternative & Indie - Released January 18, 2005 | Jagjaguwar

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Black Mountain rises from within the Vancouver-based fiefdom of Stephen McBean, the hazy-toned singer and meandering songwriter who also heads up Pink Mountaintops. Both groups languish in a fog of psychedelia and sexual release. But while the latter opts for arty avant folk, Black Mountain lives up to its name with a heavier foundation. The self-titled debut on Jagjaguwar (its eight-song count and subdued cover art are a dark mirror to Pink Mountaintops) busts open half-lidded Velvet Underground fetishisms with squalls of Blue Cheer guitar, and further channels the heady sounds of the late '60s with a moodily dwelling organ. McBean shares vocal duties with Amber Webber throughout, but she becomes an especially important factor on the twosome that closes Black Mountain, since her stoned and elegiac vocals make them something more than simply idling jams. "Heart of Snow," for example, flutters like a warped and ancient recording of "Space Oddity" as Webber draws out the syllables in lines like "Heart of snow/Let go let go/But your sad wings/Won't fly you home"; feedback and pounding drums periodically join in. It's a damaged blues sound comparable to that of Jennifer Herrema's Royal Trux outgrowth RTX, but McBean's vaguely mystic lyrics also dovetail Black Mountain back into Pink Mountaintops territory. "Modern Music" and "No Satisfaction" rock a White Light/White Heat tumble that's nevertheless well done, particularly on the former, which features some spectacular sax assistance from Vancouver area player Masa Anzai. The remainder of Black Mountain positions stoner rock chording over swirling vintage keys and the ever-impressive vocals of McBean and Webber. It's a referential sound, to be sure. But there's enough weight to Black Mountain's mojo to make it more than worthwhile. ~ Johnny Loftus
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 24, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

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Lousy with stadium concert excess, rock star foppery and the profuse heresies of disco, 70s music was once an easy target for defamers. But that much-maligned era has become a ubiquitous influence in today's fractured musical soundscape. Young guitar bands routinely gulp down Zep licks and Iommi chords, digest the relevant lessons and chunder up fresh manifestos, which in the case of heavy stoner/psych rock lords Black Mountain's fifth full length means hard, fast knots of guitar riffage, Hawkwind-esque lyrics and a devotion to the twin lyrical icons of 70's rock: cars and sex. Black Mountain founder/leader Stephen McBean recently added high octane fuel to his awe for 70's-influenced rock by learning to drive at the tender age of 48. Getting behind the wheel for the first time led to "Licensed to Drive," where he echoes Deep Purple's immortal "Highway Star," by exclaiming, "Live now / Speed thrills / Hunted by the radar / The Thunder of the Steel" while synthesizers wail with abandon. Rather than a KISS allusion, the album's title is supposedly named for a short-lived Dodge muscle car that was discontinued in 1985. With his road jones satiated he moves toward pleasures of the flesh in "High Rise": "Thrusting cement into heaven / Penetrating the clouds / Staring us down / Thinking you're all that the world spins around / The loneliest cock in the sky." Mixed by John Congelton, Destroyer is sonically compressed, in-your-face and meant to be played loud. A blunt-edged continuation of Black Mountain's evolution into intricate layering, inventive, hooky arrangements and odd touches like acoustic guitar openings and vocoder choruses, Destroyer, dedicated to "all the warriors who have left the stadium," finds new driver McBean mastering the musical wile of looking in the rearview while simultaneously keeping an artistic eye on what's ahead. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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IV

Alternative & Indie - Released April 1, 2016 | Jagjaguwar

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Some bands study their influences simply to reproduce their effects, while others strive to learn from them. Black Mountain's trademark blend of hard rock, prog, psychedelia, and a dash of folk drives their fourth album, insightfully titled IV. (Well, it's their fourth album if you don't count their soundtrack to the film Year Zero, and they clearly don't.) Black Mountain have long had one foot firmly planted in rock's past, but on IV they don't sound as if they're caught in a loop of nostalgia. Instead, the band have embraced the stylistic elements of late-'60s and early-'70s smart people's rock, but use them to shape the way they approach the material. The banks of keyboards, the barking report of the guitar, and the occasional drift into the aural cosmos certainly peg the era of greatest influence for Black Mountain. But the group's melodies remain fortunately straightforward, even when the arrangements stretch out to invite the spirit (such as on "Over and Over [The Chain]" and Space to Bakersfield"). And despite the group's obvious psych/prog leanings and fondness for stretched-out jams, there isn't a lot of empty virtuosity displayed on IV. Black Mountain favor texture and drama over instrumental acrobatics, and if the musicians don't aim to impress with their chops, their ideas easily get over on this album. IV often sounds majestically trippy but rarely noodly, and the clear, full-bodied audio producer Randall Dunn brings to these sessions is a perfect complement for the material. At their best, Black Mountain approach '70s rock with a 21st century mindset, and that's the sort of sound and feel that make IV so effective. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 14, 2010 | Jagjaguwar

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Black Mountain's 2008 album In the Future was a spectacle drenched in vintage and prog rock bombast that made its title seem ironic. BM's sound owes more than a modicum of debt to big rock's storied past, and on Wilderness Heart they still lean heavily on many of those influences, but have focused and tightened them into a classic rock-sounding vehicle that is more their own animal than someone else's. For starters, they employed outside producers -- D. Sardy (Nine Inch Nails, LCD Soundsystem) and Randall Dunn (Sunn 0))) and Boris) -- for the first time. They also recorded in Los Angeles rather than at home. Amber Webber emerges into at least an equally prominent lead vocalist role as guitarist/vocalist Stephen McBean. Their power as a duet is exercised on the set's opening cut, “The Hair Song," which evokes so much of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti-and-after aesthetic that it feels like a wonderful homage, but the pair's vocals are quite stunning together. They are on second track "Old Fangs" as well, though they alternate, as the band offers up shades of Garth Hudson's organ sound from "Chest Fever" on a chug-heavy, taut modern rocker. What's quite noticeable about these first two tracks is that they are an aesthetic for the album, which features closely constructed, attentive songwriting that doesn't try to pack everything but the bathroom sink into the mix and/or knot the listener's mind with elongated instrumental passages. The moody psychedelic dynamics in "Rollercoaster" are reminiscent of "Tyrants" from In the Future, but the vocal interplay is richer, as are the textured, brief, layered instrumental interludes. "Let Spirits Ride" feels more like latter-day Black Sabbath than BM; it's the set's only clunker. The acoustically driven duet "Buried by the Blues" is a shimmering beauty. The title track recalls the heavier work from both of BM's earlier recordings, and Webber's vocals are utterly lovely and expressive. The duet "Radiant Hearts" is the finest ballad here, with its lilting, spacious instrumentation, hosted by acoustic piano and guitar. The set ends with the moody post-psych number "Sadie," on which guitars, keyboards, and vocals all drift and swirl inside and around one another. BM have upped their ante with Wilderness Heart by concentrating more on excellent songwriting and close-cornered arranging than sprawling heavy rock bacchanalia. ~ Thom Jurek
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 22, 2008 | Jagjaguwar

Booklet
During the nearly three years between Black Mountain's self-titled debut album and its sophomore full-length In the Future, there had been extensive touring, a first attempt at recording which proved to be a false start of sorts (though some of those songs ended up here), and a kind of development that would seem radical if these Vancouverites weren't so quirky to begin with. Certainly, the roots of this sound are evident on the debut album. It's loaded with trippy neo-psych folk and rock tropes. But these are counterweighted with a drenched-in-prog-and-Sabbath bombast that makes the title seem ironic. If not laugh out loud funny. That's right: prog rock and Black Sabbath-like riffery and knotty, multi-part structures worthy of Greenslade are all entwined with pixie-ish protocol, acid-laced folk (think Melanie meets Sandy Denny meets Grace Slick's early period duets with Marty Balin and Paul Kantner on the Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow and Volunteers). The weird thing is, despite its obvious nods to rock collections, including not only Sabbath's Master of Reality but Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick, Hawkwind's Warrior on the Edge of Time, Peter Hammill's entire Charisma period, Eloy's first three albums, Rush's 2112 (where some of these rather drenched-in-warped-myth lyrics were derived from; but then they're Canadians too), and Led Zep's Physical Graffiti, with a touch of the optimism of Thunderclap Newman and Graham Nash -- all is tempered by Neil Young's sleepy delivery -- sometimes in the same song! The sheer heaviness of tracks like "Stormy High," that wails out of the gate with guitars in full pummel riffage, fuzzed out bassline, and floor tom, bass drum, hi hat fury are stretched out by layers of Mellotrons! Then, Stephen McBean and Amber Webber begin wailing wordlessly à la "Immigrant Song," before McBean takes the lead vocal and you're ready for your space rock pith helmet! Where's Michael Moorcock when you need him? He's about all that's missing. It gets more insistent before it lets up with the starting-in-fifth-gear "Tyrants," that winds and wends its way through a multi-dimensional journey densely packed with sonic wonkery, key and time changes, and the feeling of a journey through time and space for over eight minutes. The sheer sonic throb is balanced by long, droning Mellotron and analogue synth drones, tribal, chant-like drumming, and the pleading, world-weary, vulnerable voice of McBean. It's quite a thing, but it's only a precursor to the truly epic "Bright Lights" near the end of the set that rages on for nearly 17 minutes. Fuzzy electrics, shimmering acoustics, and trance-like keyboards flit in and out between the alternating vocals of McBean and Webber. The music picks up intensity, shifts direction numerous times, and careens across the rock and folkscapes of rock's history from the late '60s through the '70s with great focus, wit, and ambition. There are other things like this here, too, with the utterly beautiful and tender lysergic folk explorations in "Stay Free," where unplugged six-strings, tambourine, McBean's falsetto, and Webber's harmony are seamless, as of one voice. The lyrics are direct, but the sheer sparseness of the mix (organs hover in the backdrop) stands in such sharp contrast to "Wucan" and "Tyrant" that it's like a wake-up call from the ether. (Movie music directors, take heed: this is the one you want for those long reflective moments where the two main characters have parted to rethink their positions.) It picks up, but never too much; the bridge is wonderfully constructed with just enough ornamentation to take it up a notch texturally and dynamically. "Wild Wind," clocking in under two minutes could be a lost Kevin Ayers' outtake. It's only a shame it's so brief. "Evil Ways" -- no relation to the Santana number -- is all metallic stoner rock with rumbling, quaking tom toms, piercing guitars, and huge organs challenging one another to overcome the vocals. As atrocious as this all sounds, perhaps, it's actually quite wonderful and it works without faltering. For what it is, is a stunning extension of the root sound Black Mountain arrived with. Part of the credit has to go to John Congleton for his amazing mix. It's packed with stuff, but there's enough space here, and wonderfully warm atmospheres, to bring the listener right into the deeper sonic dimensions that Black Mountain is trying to create. That it's done without artificial sounding punch up or tons of digital effects makes it come together as a whole. There is no sophomore slump here. ~ Thom Jurek
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 18, 2005 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 8, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 3, 2012 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 9, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 12, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 12, 2016 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 26, 2011 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 7, 2005 | Jagjaguwar

This CD version of Jagjaguwar's original 12" single for "Druganaut/Buffalo Swan" adds two bonus tracks, "Bicycle Man" and what Black Mountain terms a "campfire version" of "No Satisfaction." Anyone who heard the Druganaut LP could tell the title track was crimped. Three-minutes-and-forty-seven-seconds? Come on. Stretched over eight minutes and twining through guitar solo fuzz, backmasking, and keys that swelter like low-lying humidity, the version here is much truer. But "Druganaut" is also still measured. It's easy for groups like the Warlocks or Spiritualized to lengthen and louder things to face-warping levels, and it's often awesome when they do. But "Druganaut"'s best qualities are its steady pace and gently threatening nature -- you sense it could detonate into a Comets on Fire squall at any second. "Buffalo Swan" is even longer, a lingering rock jam that layers Stephen McBean and Amber Webber's mournfully melodic vocals over a sub-Zeppelin bass line and synthesizer dust bunnies. The longer format of these songs suits Black Mountain perfectly. It lets McBean stretch his notes, twining them until he grows hair on his throat. And the steady instrumental builds simmer with enough power that they don't need an explosive payoff. (Though sometimes, as in "Buffalo," they have one anyway.) The version of "No Satisfaction" here isn't extended from the album length. But it really is a "campfire version," recorded live with McBean acting as leader for the gang-vocal call-and-response. It's a smiling thrill, like an outtake from some vintage Monkees episode where the Seekers stopped by for a hang. Don't assume the Druganaut EP's four tracks are measly. There's enough music here for a summer's worth of parties. ~ Johnny Loftus
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 3, 2016 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 5, 2015 | Jagjaguwar