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On Second Listen: Mountains- Etching

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Most albums have long tracks, short tracks, filler, hit singles. How about a full-length album with just one track? Call it a single, or call it simply incredibly long, Mountains’ late 2009 release, Etching, is one 38 minute and 14 second mind trip of a song.

Mountains is ambient music duo Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp. Their third album, Choral, was released in 2009 to generally positive reviews. As they prepared to hit the road in support of the release, they also hit the studio, recording music meant to mimic their live experience. The result was Etching, released in a limited pressing of 1000 albums, each with hand-stamped jacket art.

The album builds from a few quiet rhythms, gradually gaining more percussion, and filling out with more and louder sounds. The increase is gradual, as if you’re driving past a meadow filled with increasingly taller grasses, brighter flowers, a few animals leaping here and there. By eight minutes out, the music can really only be described as a soundscape, a realistic place one could visit and stay awhile. This is one of the only albums I’ve found I can write to, and I imagine it would be equally sublime played during a hot bath, a long roadtrip, or a sleepless night.

Around 12:30, the song quiets so much that it almost seems to end, but the longer journey is just beginning. A little soft guitar mixed with some effects that sound like water and static mix for a while, a peaceful interlude between deeper sections. Building up again after this pause, the music climbs and winds around itself, creating an ever-expanding sonic scaffolding that peaks again around 33:00 with a pleasant hum over the peaceful arrangement underneath. The whole thing is so pleasant and calm that when it finally spins to its end at 38:14, your ears hear the silence like never before.

Beautiful, peaceful, epic, and winding, Etching is a beautiful record to chill out with. If this is representative of the Mountains live experience, sign me up. It’s the calmest 38 minutes I’ve spent all week.

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