It is only right, given the music that they make, that things move at a gentle pace behind the scenes at When Mountain’s Speak. When I first started writing about the band, (project, collective, solo outlet?) I think that I am right in saying that it was a one-man band. Albeit a one-man band masquerading as some sort of celestial soundscaper or universal music maker.
But slowly and deftly things have evolved in the same way that their music slowly changes its form with suppleness and subtly. Steve Clarkson is now joined by bassist Jim Gary, who certainly makes his presence known on this latest offering and there is also talk of a permanent set of sticks at the drum stool.
I have probably said as much before but when you step foot in the world of When Mountains Speak you should expect both the familiar and the unexpected. Some things can be taken for granted – long, evolving, gloriously serene instrumental tracks but in the same way that two paths may look alike but take you to completely different destinations and through new and tantalising experiences, so it goes here.
In The Begining is built around a gently meandering bassline, just organised enough to tether the song, adventurous enough to offer unexpected twists and turns. To this, squalling bursts of guitar add weight and conscious, unfussy beats build momentum. And it is perhaps the band’s …we can correctly use that term now, I feel…most adventurous track to date, weighing in at over 30 minutes.
But pushing yourself and testing your own limits pays off and the track has been awarded Exceptional Merit for Best Original Score at the Nature Without Borders International Film Festival. This brings me to the other half of the package, the accompanying video. It is a gorgeous feast of the eyes, a montage of the natural world, from the minutiae of life on this home planet to acts of cosmic creation and images of deep space. Both the film and the music are great in their separate ways, together they are a match made in heaven.
When Mountains Speak has always been an intriguing affair, adventurous, experimental and confident enough to stick to their sonic guns when making music, music that some might find too long, languid and liquid. But for me, those three “l’s” are the real charm and on the strength of recent evolution within the band’s ranks and, particularly, acknowledgement by the powers-that-be of their real creative power and musical joy making suggests that others are starting to understand what the fuss is all about too. About time really.