There’s always been an evocative essence of the Orient coursing through the veins of When Mountains Speak. Sometimes, it’s nestled within the rhythmic tapestry; at other times, it meanders through the seductive drift of riffs, while occasionally, it’s an intangible aura that transcends the sum of its musical parts, casting a spell that draws the mind inexorably eastward. Thus, the decision to weave Shreyas Iyer, a master tabla player, deeper into their musical fabric seems natural. “Skipping the Divide,” the latest opus to emerge under the Mountainous moniker, unfolds as an intricate collaboration between Steven and Shreyas, a departure from the conventional band framework. Unlike the unwavering solidity that their name suggests, the allure of WMS has always rested in its fluid and ever-evolving nature.
Following the peculiar, jazz-infused avant-garde prologue that is “e = mc3,” we encounter “Whimstruck,” adorned with its emotionally charged tabla rhythms. Amidst the gusts of strange, squalling sonic gales and basslines pulsating like distant thunder, the song emerges as a peculiar fusion of tethered beats and primal harmonies, dancing in a trance-like union.
The title track unfurls as a more languid affair, a tapestry woven with spacious beats, meandering basslines, delicate piano motifs, and the fluttering breath of brass, seamlessly leading into “Obscurity.” Both tracks exude a similar sense of liberty and exploration, embracing the enigmatic allure of unconventional musical odysseys over the well-trodden paths of convention. Indeed, such a description could apply to the entirety of Steven’s and WMS’s repertoire to a certain degree.
The EP gracefully concludes with “Dismissing The Envelope,” a cacophonous and dissonant sonic landscape where each discordant note pushes the boundaries of the familiar, plunging headlong into a realm of warped sonics, irreverent clangs, and pulsating beats.
Even amidst the unconventional labyrinth of When Mountains Speak, this is audacious material, unfettered and exploratory, charting an adventurous trajectory that would make most musicians quiver in trepidation. It’s a realm where noise, sonic installations, the avant-garde, and the artistic all coalesce within the same creative crucible, swirling together in varying degrees of creative frenzy. Some might understandably find it challenging, yet for me, it’s an adoration that knows no bounds.