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Shapes Stars Make

These Mountains Are Safe

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Label: Dreamt Music

What shape would a star make, exactly? According to the intriguingly named trio of Michael Gooden (guitars/vocals), Jon Cook (bass/synthesizer) and Zachary Edwards (drums), those shapes are big, dramatic stabs of atmospheric indie rock. Approaching their sound from the less paranoid side of Radiohead and the melodic side of Sigur Ros, their debut full-length, These Mountains Are Safe, promises more than it presents.

Largely instrumental and dominated by Gooden’s shimmering, deceptively simple guitars, These Mountains Are Safe never quite becomes an ambient album and remains a little too grounded and firm to turn into dream pop. The guitars move in small steps, using repetition and tiny, small hooks to great degrees as on the chiming, evocative motif of “Sunrise.” Cook, on the other hand, handles his bass almost monolithically, playing less of a rhythm than giant peals of low register. When the guitars finally do begin to squeal and turn into fuzz, as on the “The Calm,” he also steps it up. Edwards’ drums tend to be less memorable than either of the two melody instruments, but his simplicity and propulsion is necessary; too little of either, and These Mountains Are Safe would be less of a cohesive album than a collection of pretty noises.

Gooden’s voice remains the weakest aspect of the record; he strains and occasionally reaches the high, aching tones of Thom Yorke (it’s an inevitable comparison), but doesn’t quite have the same emotional impact. It would be less noticeable, but when eight tracks are mostly instrumental, you tend to notice the voice more when its there.

These Mountains Are Safe is a fine debut for three musicians with a good thing going for them. Hopefully they’ll be able to make their variety of dreamy guitars and wall to wall bass into something less reductive.

by Nathan Kamal
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