Review Summary: A breath of fresh air. Glory Hope Mountain is a well crafted, well executed indie masterpiece.
It is rather nice to be pleasantly surprised by something, especially when it comes to music. I am a man that believes there is a lot of talent in Canada, just as much as in the United States, and my argument just got another example. An indie-folk rock group spawning from Ottawa, Ontario released their latest album, Glory Hope Mountain, and it is very refreshing to say the very least. In fact, if I knew about it around its release, it would top any 2007 list.
The sound of the Acorn is nothing like you’d expect from our other indie acts out today. It has a stripped down, tribal, even spiritual sound to it. Might I quote The Acorn’s Myspace page concerning what exactly they sound like; “The splishsplashsplosh of aminotics sluicing through a rusty sewer grate onto the scalp of a morbidly content and sewer-dwelling Sigmund Freud... followed by... a chorus of centaur hoof-stomps and whinnies lured by smell to the gleaming pate of said subterranean psychoanalyst, the creatures' first meal in days... followed by... the gutteral eructation and dulcet digestion, contrapuntally configured, from the mythological intestine. or something like that....” I suppose that sums it up.
The musicality of the record is very organic, and natural. There are no electric drum patterns or synthesizers used at all. Even the electric guitar is absent most of the time. Most songs are lead by alternative drumming and acoustic guitar. There are five members to The Acorn, but a hell of a lot more percussionists. The level of advanced drumming in this band is uncanny. At times, it feels like a massive swarm of beats are running through your headphones. Most of these songs have an entire percussion ensemble. Very rarely is the snare drums even hit in these songs. The songs that do not revolve around the superb drumming, has terrific melody; When ‘ooo’ chanting in Flood Part 2 kick in, chills will creep down your spine. The acoustic chords added to the electronic progression in Antenna will put you in a state of euphoria. The harmonious verse delivery in Even While Sleeping will have you bobbing your head. The final track Lullaby, is exactly as the title suggest. Guest vocalist Casey Mecija will lull you to sleep by her squeaky clean voice.
Glory Hope Mountain is a conceptual album chartering the encounters of the tsunami that swept Indonesia in late 2004, but the true meaning of the record is definitely up to interpretation. The main thought throughout the record is disaster, but a very soothing glance of the disaster. A tragedy occurs early on, and throughout the album, it is more about rebuilding, and picking up what was lost. It is a fresh concept to tackle and The Acorn are perfectly suited to do so.
The album is able to simulate it’s concept of water disaster perfectly. The opener Hold Your Breath, is a somewhat prelude to Flood Part 1, and really sets the mood. Piano chords come in to structure the song as muted picks dazzle over the electric fret board. Lead singer Rolf Klausener sweetly sings “There’s a river that parts the valley of this town, following the road up to your town, following the road up to your father’s farm. Your rosy lungs were empty on the day that you were born, and no one thought you’d make it past the shore.” Then a few ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs,’ a barrage of tricky acoustic patterns follow. For the next four and a half minutes, a slow build occurs, with a little electric riff, a slowly more complex drum beat. The piano chords become more triumphant, as then a massive swoon of madness, you may just feel the tide getting closer, about to swallow you. A mad chorus of “Hold, Your Breath. Hold, Your Breath!” erupts and will have your neck hair stand. And that’s just the first track.
Just as Hold Your Breath will give you chills, Flood Part 1 will give you an opposite effect. It is a complete continuation of the previous track, but captures the actual flood, about to hit. But it is likely the most upbeat song on the album. The song starts with tribal chanting, then a simple drum beating. Followed by a pause, is a smash of notes and sound, creating the chaos, a perfect visualization of a flood. Then comes a sweetly smooth guitar part as the song floats on with an energetic vocal delivery. The song is so upbeat and even danceable, when it is characterizing a terrible tragedy. It is an absolute ingenious and original interpretation of music. This is definitely a well rooted album, as song from song flow tremendously. (note the bass drum beating for a smooth connection between Even While Your Sleeping and Crooked Legs) The songs include guest instruments to nudge them to perfection, like the barely audible cello background to assist the wild opening riff in Low Gravity. As well as a violin harmony to make Lullaby even soft and smoother. Most likely is there at least two guitar parts going at once, Note the finger picking and chord strumming of Oh Napoleon. There is no truly flop song, except Glory isn’t able to take me to the heights that the other do.
The lyrical approach is quite unique. Klausener has involved metaphors to refer to disaster; “Though this water keeps our whistles wet, I’ve never been more thirsty.” Cool, thought provoking lyrics; “No need for the nude of the moon, as I’m guided by fireflies.” As well as soothing, beautiful passages; “I, I will watch over you, I know your heart is true, little mountain of mine.” But even songs with no lyrics can strike a chord emotionally. The instrumental Sister Margaret, is led by a slow paced acoustic riff that little effects assist.
Now the reason that Glory Hope Mountain and The Acorn triumph is because they succeed where other indie bands fail. The problem with indie these days is that it is not particularly groundbreaking or inventive. But the heavy focus on rhythm and alternate drumming, as well as the multiple instruments, and a deep concept show originality and freshness, in a rather stale genre.
A 5 out of 5? You may think this is derekchewie being a n00b here who is over crediting his mediocre indie band, but I can assure you, this is incredible. The rich texture of sound mixed with deeply complicated time signature, as well as the sweetly composed melodies throughout will delight anyone. The band takes organic, natural sounding instruments and is able to mesh it and bring the music to the level of swirling anthems that any orchestra could produce. But most importantly, Glory Hope Mountain is improving its genre, if only people could see it. It is a complete travesty that music of this caliber is so unknown, even to Sputnikmusic. Please, buy this album.