Archive for Blood Meridian

On Black Mountain’s “IV”, The Unexpected Ingredient Is Sincerity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2016 by johnbuckley100

Since Black Mountain’s eponymous debut in 2005, followed one year later by Pink Mountaintops’ maiden voyage, we’ve viewed both of Stephen McBean’s vehicles as tandem expressions of his already heterodox talents.  The influences on his songwriting apparent early on included Modern Dance-era Pere Ubu, New York’s No Wave bands, and when he and Amber Weber sang a duet on “Druganaut,” it sounded much more like Sly and The Family Stone than X, which was interesting.  The homages to Led Zeppelin, the cheesy Deep Purple keyboards, the clear reference to Station To Station-era Bowie: it soon all added up to a dazzling porridge, heavy and melodic at the same time, with deadly seriousness offset by antic glimpses.  Black Mountain could — and on the great Wilderness Heart did — play proto-metal and punk, back to back.  And with other band members launching such disparate vehicles as Lightning Dust and Blood Meridien, the Black Mountain Army was seemingly as potent a force in modern music as the Elephant Six Collective.

But even with certain surface charms, 2014’s Pink Mountaintops album, Get Back, was a turnoff.  Suddenly it triggered, at least in Tulip Frenzy’s World HQ, a reassessment, as it rendered McBean’s magpie plucking of influences suspect.  We wondered who the real McBean was: the distant bandleader launching his attack from Vancouver, or one more cool cat taking on the world from L.A.?  With only their fourth album in 11 years, we now have the answer, at least from Black Mountain: IV is their best full album since they took their name from the large pile of Afghani sitting on the table in front of them.

Even their naming convention is a reminder of the influence of Zep, but on IV, the seemingly biggest influences on McBean and company is their own prior work, as a band and an aggregation of the sister bands.  “You Can Dream” sounds like something Lightning Dust would play at Edinburgh Castle.  The opener, “Mothers Of The Sun,” is their best long-form construction since “Bastards Of Light.”  The combination of McBean and Weber has never sounded stronger, and on a song like “Constellations,” you have all of Black Mountain’s charms in one interplanetary locus.  After the last ersatz and kitschy Pink Mountaintops outing, McBean returns with something that sounds, dare we say it, sincere.

All is forgiven.  Black Mountain’s fourth record is their best yet.

The Forthcoming Delight Of Black Mountain’s “Wilderness Heart”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on August 20, 2010 by johnbuckley100

In the last 12 months, Black Mountain has made moves toward world domination mostly through the cosmically odd use of “Druganaut” in an ad for the Buick Lacrosse (see Tulip Frenzy’s writeup here.)  I guess last year was The Pink Mountaintops’ turn, though it was disappointing that we don’t seem to have anything new from other Black Mountain offshoots such as Blood Meridian or Lightning Dust.

Then in late July we got the gloriously sleazy single “Old Fang,” with its Deep Purple organ and video of Stephen McBean riding shotgun in an early ’70s Mustang as a Susan Atkins-type hippie vixen hitchhiker lures him to her psychedelic lair.  “Old Fang” could have been the #1 song on WBCN circa 1972, and Black Mountain would have been headliners at Watkins Glen or something. In 2010, it comes off as an absolutely pitch perfect slice o’ mid-Nixon grunge.

The release of “The Hair Song” on their MySpace page gives a further indication of where the forthcoming Wilderness Heart is heading — the purest homage to Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and the boys, replete with “Kashmir” strings — this side of Lez Zeppelin. Get ready.  September 14th release date.

7th Best Album of 2008, Black Mountain’s “In The Future”

Posted in Music with tags , , , on December 8, 2008 by johnbuckley100

Surely the title was ironic, because “In The Future” sounds like the album made secretly by the engineer when the musicians from Cactus left the studio in, oh, January 1970. Lacking the Sly and The Family Stone call-and-response dynamic between Stephen McBean and Amber Weber that was so delightful on “Drugonaut,”  this is as heavy as a 3:00 a.m. nodfest in a Gastown loft.  Now if only Black Mountain would give Matthew Camirand and Joshua Wells enough time off to record the ultimate Blood Meridian album, fans of Vancouver bands would have the musical equivalent of Whistler-Blackcomb.

Black Mountain Blows The Doors Off D.C.’s Rock and Roll Hotel

Posted in Music with tags , , on February 20, 2008 by johnbuckley100
  • Black Mountain is the rare band that is tighter live than in the studio.   Last night they came to D.C.’s Rock and Roll Hotel and had a volcanic eruption.  
  • Stephen McBean was a surprisingly low-key front man, given how dominant his singing is on both Black Mountain and sister-band Pink Mountaintops records, and he seemed more comfortable playing guitar back by the amps while Amber Webber held the center stage.  From the moment they struck up “Stormy High” from their new LP “In The Future,” it was clear that Black Mountain is one highly gelled unit, as tight as the Stones in ’69, more propulsive than Led Zeppelin, with greater psychedelic range than any of the San Francisco bands or even the “Ummagumma”-era Pink Floyd.  Yeah, I know the company I’m putting them in.  I don’t do it casually.
  • Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Matthew Camirand and Joshua Wells were riveted together, the most urgent rhythm section on God’s green Earth, at least since John Bonham slipped away.  After all, they’re the heart and soul of Blood Meridian, but that’s an alt-country band, for cryin’ out loud. Camirand finger picks a Gibson bass while Wells wallops his drum kit like John Henry besting the infernal machine.  Interestingly, on “Druganaut”–  which is a killer in both recorded versions, but last night was played at a looser, ever so slightly slower tempo — Wells plays the beat backwards, they way Charlie Watts plays reggae.  It was very subtle, and magnificent.
  • Amber Webber sings in a warbly ululation like a Yemeni widow at a funeral procession, but she basically just stands there, cool as a cucumber.  For a band so centered on call-and-response vocals — all kidding aside, Webber and McBean are not unlike Sly Stone and his sister going back and forth in “Dance to the Music” — she and McBean are exceptionally easy going.
  • McBean looks like he purposely is trying to scare young children, with his thick long hair and black beard, but he plays the guitar like a genie.  “That guitarist carried the band,” I heard some kids say on the street as we left the surprisingly Mudd Club-like Rock And Roll Hotel.  I disagree — the MVP for this outing, and I suspect others, is clearly Joshua Wells — but McBean’s at least on par with Dave Gilmour in being able to project a band like this into deep space.
  • In the review of “In The Future,” Tulip Frenzy earlier chided them for channeling Deep Purple, but Jeremy Schmidt’s keyboards pay as much of a debt to Pere Ubu’s Alan Ravenstine’s analog synth as they do to, say, Keith Emerson.
  • The set was a surprisingly fast-paced sonic goo, never bogging down into vanilla fudge, even on the loooong songs.  “Stormy High” kicked off the set, and they played most of “In The Future,” before finishing up with a one-two punch of “Druganaut” and “No Satisfaction” from their first album.  I’m used to the campfire version of “No Satisfaction,” but this was pure punk rock. 
  • Under most circumstances, listening to a band invoke the early ’70s sound of pre-heavy metal psychedelia is not my idea of fun.  I’m kind of stunned that in 2008, the best real rock’n’roll around is being made by a band just this side of prog.  But it’s all true.  Black Mountain blew the doors off the Rock and Roll Hotel.
NPR helpfully aired the whole thing.  Want to hear what I’m talking about? Link here:

Black Mountain Goes Back To “In The Future”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on February 3, 2008 by johnbuckley100

Trying to describe Black Mountain’s music is like copywriting for one of those Ben and Jerry’s ice cream mash ups.  In some ways, it’s easier to imagine what peanut butter cups mushed with cherry pie might taste like than it is to get a handle on a band that can sound like Sly and Family Stone jamming with Black Sabbath.  Okay, they’ve got big, slow, gooey riffs, and when Stephen McBean and Amber Webber get that call and response thing going, you do indeed think of Sly calling out and Ozzy responding. But that was then — on their superb 2005 eponymous debut.  “In the Future” is more like a mashup of Deep Purple with the Human Switchboard, and I mean that as a compliment.### This is a heavy album, Ummagumma meets PJ Harvey.  I miss the light, Tom Herman-esque guitar playing of the first album, and it seems a step farther in the direction of darkness than the rosy alpenglow of their Pink Mountaintops sister band/offshoot.  It’s been a while since I’ve cheerfully signed up to listen to prog rock, as this often is.  ###  But when it’s good — when the Blood Meridian rhythm section of Joshua Wells (drums) and Matthew Camirand (bass) crank up the bottom, and Amber Weber’s voice soars, as it does on “Queens Will Play,” and Stephen McBean leads the incantation — these guys tower over the coastal fjords of British Columbia, casting their shadow on the entire Vancouver scene.   ### I miss the pure fun of “Druganaut,” and “No Satisfaction,” and “Bicycle Man” from their earlier work.  But I can’t get “In The Future” out of the rotation on my iPod.  This is more nourishing than a bowl full of Phish Food. 

Blood Meridian’s “Liquidate Paris” Will Do Until Black Mountain’s New One

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on January 9, 2008 by johnbuckley100

The eyes of the nation await dramatic events later in the month.  We’re not talking about the Nevada caucuses, the South Carolina primary.  We’re talking about the real Super Tuesday, January 22nd, when Black Mountain, Cat Power, and the Fleshtones all release albums.  I don’t know how to handicap Super Tuesday other than to say that in the case of the Fleshtones, I pray they haven’t succumbed to that “change” bug that seems to have infected Obamawannabes: Tulip Frenzy likes its Fleshtones just the way God made ’em.
  • But while I’m really looking forward to the other two releases, it’s Black Mountain that intrigues me most.  While we await “Into the Future,” I’ve been playing everything by Black Mountain and its two sister-groups, The Pink Mountaintops and Blood Meridian.  Happily, Blood Meridian released a limited edition new album at the end of 2007.  After contorting myself to find it — searching Ebay, pulling on threads — it’s just showed up in the iTunes store.
  • “Liquidate Paris” is nowhere near as good as their last one, “Kick Up The Dust,” which took away the coveted “Tulip Frenzy Album of the Year” (c) honors in 2006.  It has the same parched, Calexico-esque countrywestern sound as the last one — you know what I mean: percussion that sounds like a marimba but is really a rattlesnake tail shake, and that’s not slide guitar, that’s a ricochet from the shoot-out at the Ok Corral — but Matthew Camirand, Joshua Wells, and the rest of the gang seem like they recorded it while midway through a Pony Express mission, which in this case may have just been Blood Mountain’s latest.  It lacks the relaxed, melodic, poignancy of “Kick Up The Dust,”which was recorded during an extended woodshed on Vancouver Island or some bucolic North’o’theborder locale.  Still, go download “Everything She Said,” “Burning River of Guilt,” “She Calls Me,” and “She Wears Black and I Wear White.”  Those songs are great.
  • For more on The Black Mountain/Blood Meridian collective see Tulip Frenzy v. 1.0.

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