Published Oct 04, 2011Brooklyn duo Mountains have been making music together for close to seven years now, but it wasn't until their 2009 LP, Choral, that most took notice. While the group's earlier records were essentially ambient, their recent releases on Thrill Jockey have put them in the same league as the much-loved Emeralds and other purveyors of the kosmische rebirth, not to mention raised their profile significantly.
Touring in support of their most recent LP, the sublime Air Museum, the duo took the intimate confines of Vancouver's Western Front and elevated it to dizzying heights. The pair took turns plucking simple acoustic guitar lines that were then looped and filtered through a table of pedals and analog gear. Eventually, gauzy layers of synths and an array of effects bled together, arriving at an aural display of majesty that filled the room.
After a ten-year absence from creating music under his Oval moniker, Germany's Markus Popp returned last year with a critically lauded double album and EP. Despite being labelmates, Popp's music actually stood in direct contrast to the transcendental bliss created by Mountains. Taking pieces from his recent release O and Oh, Popp delivered a hectic set of laptop electronics that utilized samples of plucked strings and drumming. At times, the set seemed scattershot and arrhythmic, coming off a bit like the more abstract sound sculptures of Autechre. Meanwhile, other tracks were expertly coalesced into intricate patterns that had the mostly sedate crowd awkwardly bouncing knees or nodding heads.
Admittedly, without visuals, most laptop shows can be a tad boring to watch for extended periods. Not so with Popp, who spent the hour-long set bouncing excitedly in front of his computer and frantically twisting knobs on a pedal, all while contorting his face into almost comical positions. His electric nature was contagious enough to keep the crowd amused and entertained throughout. After his set, he was even kind enough to invite the crowd over to his laptop to show off how he puts together his live show. This is one wizard that certainly has no curtain.