Mountain Men Anonymous
My Kung Fu
rriving at a time when the Mogwai branch of the post-rock genre is ossified beyond measure, Mountain Men Anonymous’ second album Krkonose does little to stretch or expand the limits of the music that it so carefully apes. What this trio from Cardiff does, however, is add a spot of piano, organ and a variety of other influences to the pot. As such, Krkonose is, at the very least, a far more interesting release than many of its kind. The problem is that it's no more successful. Or in other words: if you upgraded the truly shoddy production and replaced some of the more drone-based pieces, you’d have Mogwai circa practice space before Come on Die Young.
Which isn’t a bad thing. In fact, in some cases, the “there are some really neat acoustics in this here bathroom, guys, have a listen!” production works for the band on Krkonose. On “Bringing Out Your Dead”, the kaleidoscopic chorus of voices seems to be bringing an atrocious exhibition of dead souls right into your living room. In other cases, it hampers the disc terribly, creating an unneeded claustrophobic feel to tracks that might’ve benefited from some, you know, air? The all-too-similar “Out of Europe” or “We Stole Your Rhyming Dictionary” come immediately to mind as possibilities.
But overall, there’s more good than bad here. And they do have tons of potential. Witness “Weep”, which rolls up trip-hop beats and the aforementioned organ into a thick and soupy mess of a track. It points towards the same sort of experimentalism of Mogwai’s “Sine Wave”. One can only hope that they don’t abandon as readily in the future as that group has done. And then there’s the gloomy drum machine-isms of “Finding Heart Through Pain”, one of the few tracks that contains recognizable lyrics. It’s a short intermediary between two longer pieces, but fares better than both on either side, utilizing a rolling piano to nice effect.
The thing that attracts and repels about Mountain Men Anonymous is one of the major differences between it and its post-rock brethren: cloudy and hazy production that makes everything sound incredibly gothy, as opposed to the Fridman school of everything in its right and odd place. This sloppiness is almost endearing at times. And just plain sloppy at others. So, while they may be more indebted to goth and trip-hop than some of their forebearers, these heavily hyped new kids on the block have got something. Whether it’s the right stuff or not remains to be seen. Either way, if you’re following this style of music, it’s not one to be missed.