Chicago’s Speck Mountain is built around the song writing pair of Marie-Claire Balabanian and Karl Briedrick. On their third album, Badwater, the pair is joined by drummer Chris Dye (formerly of Chin Up Chin Up) and organist Linda Malonis and the band drafts a wide open, woozy statement of ambient rock n’ soul.
Subtle sonic beauty is the core of Speck Mountain’s second LP. At times haunting, at times warm and breezy, there is a dream-like ambiance that permeates the collection. Marie-Claire Balabanian’s soulful vocals are strong without ever over-singing (pop divas should take note). Instead, her vocals, like the swelling organ, well-placed tambourine, and fuzzed guitars, are one of many sounds mixed together to comprise a complete auditory picture. While nothing ever stands out, repeated listens reveal an intricacy to the song-craft. The throbbing baseline of “Angela” would be nothing without the harmonized vocals; the guitar arpeggio at the root of “Shame on the Soul” is complimented perfectly by a minimalist percussion, including reverb-drenched tambourine. Because of the emphasis of ambiance over hooks some of the songs have a hard time distinguishing themselves, but if there ever was a good drone, this is the one.