2016 has been an exciting year for the band Glass Mountain. In February they were asked to do their first gig supporting MARSICANS in Leeds. Accepting that they would need a second guitarist they quickly found a fourth member in Lewis, who, turning up for an initial jam session, caused them to realise that they had their man when he had already learnt many of the guitar parts. To commemorate their debut gig, they released what has become their first official single. Ten inch clear vinyl, limited to a ridiculously instantly collectible 25 copies, which were snapped up before they even left the stage. A full EP, “Glacial” had it’s launch party at the 360 club in Leeds in June quickly followed by an addition to the line up of the “Secret Festival” of the band EMBRACE and a slot at the ever popular above-its-weight-punching Bingley Music Festival. December saw them on their first official UK tour supporting Embrace and being treated like rock gods sharing the lead act’s tour bus.
With the follow-up single currently at the pressing plant awaiting a 17th of March release date, right now would seem to be a good moment in which to review the tracks from the new single and also to revisit the previous release which is almost sold out as I write, yet deserves continuing applause.
The Aesthetics of the band are somewhat Stark; predominantly black background record covers, zine covers, t-shirts, yet each with a very defined artistic focal point. In all cases, utilising the services of different artists and designers. The defined look of the band’s output accidentally common yet independently produced by those artists!
Stylistically speaking, the same applies to the video of the opening track of the first EP. Bass player and keyboardist, William, is a professional musician and also owns and runs a recording studio.
The award-winning video for the song, like much of the Bands aesthetics, gives a dark and icy cold feel to the track in the same way that the title does, but as the song melts into a sorrowful first verse, colour seeps through to reveal the inner warmth of emotion that the band and their songs possess. A static one camera shot lasting almost seven minutes is possibly the most mesmerizing video to a song that you could ever see. The video and the song combine to make a thing of beauty and if this was the last ever thing the band produced then they could rest easy that they had reached a summit that that most bands would kill for. William tells me in a recent interview that at the moment singer Harry sang the song for the first time he knew that they were onto something immediately.
“I mean when he first sang that in the studio I was floored. I’m just sat there in front of the speakers, you know, thinking are the recording levels right, and when he got to the chorus I had tears rolling down my face….. Presentation of it is quite icy with cold glacial emotional detachment and then when you get to the vocal of the chorus and harry is singing ‘can’t you crave me like I crave you?’, that is like one of the most soulful, passionate lyrics that you could hope to have in a chorus”.
If this makes the band sounds like one of those anthemic indie bands that littered the charts throughout the last decade then I apologise for pulling the wool over the readers eyes. The band are much more than this. With no obvious reference points the listener will hear flashes of, yet will be left scrabbling for a finger hold on the smooth glass/rock face of their musical inspirations. Beneath the glassy exterior the listener will catch a phrase delivered in the style of Morrissey, a sudden explosion of guitar effects wall of sound that nods to Dinosaur Jr, and beautiful guitar parts that offer the tension and resolution of bands such as Codeine and Slint. These are however merely glimpses because, with no strongly discernible reference points, the band are defining themselves and their sound as pure untarnished Glass Mountain.
A song like “Medicate” offers a feedback drenched wall of sound introduction that explodes into a 80s / 90s alternative rock sound reminiscent of the first Dinosaur Jr album. However, another focal point of the multi-faceted 5 track EP is the track, “Over Thinking”, with it’s jarring introduction where the drums and the rhythm of the vocal delivery syncopate in opposite directions to the beat. First listen at this track feels disconcertingly tense, until the song resolves itself at the chorus. If Glacial didn’t do it to me on first listen then the track “Over Thinking” most certainly hooked me there and then.
It is the integrity of this band that means that this EP may not be re released in the same format, which would be a travesty because this EP deserves to be heard far and wide. It was the same integrity that caused the band to refuse to chop the title track when Radio 6 requested a radio edit. Tom Robinson decided that the track needed to be heard in its intended state. Integrity, importantly, won the day.
Cowboy song from the new single opens with a breathless whispered piano melody, vocals sang strongly and clearly cutting through from the low register in which Harry delivers his vocal lines, whilst the rest of the instrumentation acts like a group hug protecting Harry. As I write, it comes to me, that he has a similar vocal delivery to Margo Timmins of alternative Country Band the COWBOY JUNKIES. Take their album, “The Caution Horses”, put it on the stereo, preferably on a Summer’s eve and lie down and close your eyes. As you drift in and out of a light doze, the curtain billowing in a summer breeze, it feels as though Margo is physically there, the other side of the room singing quietly to you in that low register. I imagine that some of Glass Mountains tracks in the same environment will elicit that same feeling. He really has a strong, strong yet delicate voice.
Harry tells me that “Cowboy Song” is a tension release from the first EP whose subject matter was often about “getting yourself worked up about something or someone”. In the case of “Cowboy Song”… do the things that make you happy and worry about it later with its lyrics like “swing from a branch until it breaks and then clean up our wounds”.
The B-side for the single is a cover of the ROXY MUSIC hit, “More Than This”, slower and more atmospheric. In the bands own words they “recorded it in about two hours. We thought let’s record it really slow and leave plenty of space so it ended up sounding like a cross between Codeine and Jesus and Mary Chain” Which isn’t half a pretty accurate description.
Jonny, the bands drummer who recently picked up an endorsement from a well know cymbal manufacturer, took the decision to use felt beaters instead of sticks which gives it a “more rounded kind of sound where everything is a bit of an explosion”.
That pretty much sums up the Glass Mountain sound and work ethics!
A Bloody Jesus and Mary Codeine Velvet Valentine and a half of a release!
Watch the Video to Glacial:
and also “Glacial EP Live Sessions”.
Listen to ‘em lovingly.
Catch them on their short tour in March, including locally, Saturday 18th March, @ Scary Canary in Stourbridge.
Album review: Mark Veitch