This debut EP has been a long time coming, but Sleepless Mountain can finally proclaim that it has reached The Beginning. Now those outside of Sweden will have the chance to hear their sound: a stylish form of post-rock that borrows heavily from the field of modern composition.
The EP even sounds like a beginning – specifically, the lead-up to a road trip, or a rescue, or the minutes before the hero on horseback rides into town. This is emotive, heartening, courageous music: songs that seep strength and resolve. Their very restraint provides their power. Only in rare moments do the instruments nudge crescendo; in large part, they are content to lift the listener up high enough to peer over the wall.
The cover deserves some consideration as well. The trio of horned half-humans is reminiscent of the protagonist of Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth, less menacing than benign, like a strange family unaware of how strange it is. This otherworldliness carries over to the music, which is as rich in tone as the deep watercolors are in shade. Founded as a trio, Sleepless Mountain became a septet for this release. One hopes that everyone is available to go on tour, because it would be a shame to confine this swirling palette to the home listening experience. The trumpet-violin combo is especially welcome, as it nails the spaghetti western vibe in a manner that hasn’t been heard since Troubles’ Wolf.
But let’s not sell the core short. One of the main players teaches guitar, while another makes guitars. These people know their stuff. Perhaps this is why these songs are played with such elegance. The performers seem at one with their instruments, and who knows? Perhaps at least one of the guitars was made by a member of the band. And the double bass adds the gravitas that the project needs in order to seem complete. Even the little things are done right; the cricket chirps at the beginning of “Death Valley” intimate the introspection of these wide open spaces. One can almost taste the dust that begins to fly as these wordless troubadours ride in.
Now let’s unpack a cliché. The Beginning has a soundtrack feel, but most soundtracks are not this impressive. I don’t want a film to go with this EP; it’s perfect as it is. I’m just glad that it’s only the beginning. (Richard Allen)