[sic] Magazine

Waterless Hills – The Great Mountain

Ah, the imaginary soundtrack, a popular retreat of those seeking to yank the reviewer’s chain. Will he really write that The Great Mountain is an “orientalist Western loosely themed around Freya Stark’s 1935 travelogue The Valleys Of The Assassins and the surrealist occult art of Ithel Colquohoun”? It turns out he will, whether it be true or not. Not that it matters either way of course, for all that meta data affects the listen not one jot.

What’s more concrete is that Waterless Hills is the new instrumental project of various underground Manchester arty types that have played in bands like Irma Vep and Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura, as well as alongside Kiran Leonard, and The Great Mountain is this collective’s debut recording under the name. Impressively, their entirely improvised 8 track, 40-minute album was laid down in just one day at Hallé St Michaels, the result a surprisingly cohesive, lightly folk-inspired meandering of experimental psych mumblings.

It’s a cinematic listen at times too, melancholy violin echoing tense scores, the dusty twang of electric guitar and rumbling drums conjuring images of frontier country. Maybe it is a Western of sorts after all? The longest track, “Horns Lit By The Rising Sun”, builds out of simpler elements though, a tenebrous shimmer of strings amidst an orchestral tune-up, the percussion splashing and thudding at will as the ambient jam grows in confidence.

Periodically the rootsy finger-picking peaks, the Hallé recast as some backwoods porch. Just as quickly some patchouli-scented meandering then makes the lids heavy, higher plane meditation creeping in as the mix gets murkier, metallic guitar notes hanging in hypnotic suspension. The Great Mountain always leaves its summit lost in the clouds – only the most intrepid can cope at these altitudes, making it even more of a rarefied experience. Don’t start the ascent without a compass or you might never come back.

~The Great Mountain is released Feb 29th 2020 via the collaborative efforts of Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube Records.~