9 out of 10: A brilliant distillation of what can make indie music thrilling
Why There are Mountains is the quintessential indie-rock album: the singer can’t really sing, the lyrics are often incomprehensible, there are few tunes to speak of, guitars squall and solos are fractured, song sections abruptly collide into each other and discordance is not a sin. But like the best of the indie-rock bands – Pavement and Sonic Youth the classic examples – Cymbals Eat Guitars somehow manage to make something refreshingly alluring out of what could accurately be described as a mess.
Why There are Mountains does have one thing going against it in this day and age, though: you have to listen to it as an album. Like a great My Bloody Valentine or Radiohead record, most of the songs on their own won’t grab you. Why There are Mountains wins you over on repeated listens as the mood, pacing and texture of the album drifts you off into an aural kingdom of the album’s own making. And what’s even more impressive for a debut album by a bunch of scruffy New York young’uns is its sheer musical scope: it’s not just guitars and skittish rock as you’d expect, but also keys, violins, synths, brass and even glockenspiels running amok through at times elegiac, spacey and melodic sonic atmospherics.
Why There are Mountains serves up everything that makes indie music thrilling. The album follows its own course, free from the strictures of traditional song conventions, and does so without self-consciousness, as if sudden shifts in tempo and unexpected brass are par for the course. This should be the first of many more albums to come – I strongly advise you be there from the start.