Over the past decade, Vancouver-based Black Mountain have never been afraid to experiment with their sound. While each of their past albums hold a nostalgic sound of the 70’s, each also have their own distinct personalities. Where their debut self-titled album referenced the music of early Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane, Black Mountain’s newest album IV is more akin to Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath.
“Mothers of the Sun” starts off the album with a single clipped note played repeatedly before an epic fuzzed out guitar riff plays over a wave of synth. As it draws to an abrupt halt the staccato note continues to play while front man Stephen McBean and co-vocalist Amber Webber trade off lines back and forth. As the rest of the instruments come back in and take the listener the rest of the way through the eight-and-a-half minute track, the tone of this album has been clearly set.
While the synthesizer has always been a presence on Black Mountain tracks, it is clearly in the driver seat for this album. “Defector” begins with a sci-fi sounding synth-walk that is joined by a Roger Waters-esque bassline and intertwining vocal harmonies that would not be out of place on any track off The Wall. “(Over and Over) The Chain” makes the most use of the instrument as it creates a near constant drone through the first half of the nine-minute jam. Appropriately, the lyrics are more of a chant that is repeated multiple times.
That’s not to say that there are not upbeat tracks on this album. “Florian Saucer Attack” is more of the straight ahead rocker that brings to mind the punk rock styling of the late 70’s like The Clash and The Runaways. “Constellations” makes use of a KISS-esque guitar riff that provides an excellent vehicle for the alternating vocals of McBean and Webber as the synth carries the melody of the song.
The album closes with a pair of pensive tracks, “Crucify Me” and “Space To Bakersfield”. Easily the mellowest songs on the album, the dream pop composition of both tracks create a sort of nightcap for the musical journey IV takes you on. Each track feels like it is simultaneously from another era while still belonging firmly in our own. Black Mountain walks that fine line of musical nostalgia and creating something new. While some elements on IV can feel redundant of the past, the album as a whole keeps a timeless texture.