With a background ranging from jazz to progressive rock and embracing everything from guitars to the more rootsy Mandolin family of instruments, When Mountains Speak has had quite an eclectic musical upbringing. But even that knowledge doesn’t quite prepare you for the sheer uniqueness and gorgeous understatement that makes up the music found on From Beyond Comes Within.
Sounding like a Buddhist treatise on enlightenment, it is not surprising that the music found here is meditative and gentle, perhaps a reflection on the chosen artist name…would such words of wisdom ensue if mountains could speak? Is this music an attempt to capture what that might sound like? I like to think it is.
This is not an album to be closely analysed for conventional musical structure – melodies, hooks, infectious rhythms are not what this music is about. Rather it is about slowly unfurling sonic waves, ones that ebb and flow between musical understatement, lulling lows and brooding near-silences and crashing crescendoes, epic sonic statements and complex musical landscapes. Any more than that would be to burst the meditative and relaxing bubble that the music builds and perhaps make it too much part of the everyday world.
For this is not everyday music. It is extraordinary in so many ways. It combines the sounds of timeless traditions with cutting-edge, digital manipulations, straightforward instrumentation with wonderfully affected sound. It builds a bridge between the here-and-now and the timeless and primal. It is the music of consistency, describing things unchanging or at least changing at a glacial pace as the modern world spirals around it, oblivious to the ancient nature and power of such places. In this respect, it reminds me very much of the feeling I get when listening to Forest Robots, who you should all check out but only after giving this fine work another few spins.
Music is made for many reasons, but most of them are shallow. It is often ego-driven, a route towards fame or at best it is purely about entertainment and escapism. Well, From Beyond Comes Within is certainly about escapism. But rather than merely offering an escape from the working week, it offers an escape from modern life as a whole and even from yourself, temporarily. Through its music, we are reminded that the world is an ancient place, timeless when judged against the span of our lives. And through its intoxicating, cinematic sounds, its Gaian enormity, its primal sonics and dreamlike effects we are drawn nearer to our more primitive, purer selves.
When was the last time a three-minute pop song had that effect on you? Never, I’m guessing.