Review Summary: Drenched in echo, excessively emotional, and absolutely perfect.
Moving Mountains is a band that's never quite nailed down a specific sound. The post-rock of their debut was quickly stricken down by the space-age hardcore of "Waves", and caused a rift in the fanbase that remains to this day. But an argument can be made that Moving Mountains isn't defined by what it appears to be on the outside: it's the deceptively seductive rasps of vocalist Gregory Dunn, the intricately beautiful guitar parts that accompany them, and the feelings that the combination brings to the listener. For their self-titled effort, the band has distilled their music even further to a simpler, quieter aggregation of the sounds they've been known for over the years - the pure emotion of "Pneuma" mixed with the accessibility of "Waves". It's definitive, emotional, and absolutely perfect.
The opening of "Swing Set" sets the tone for what's to come. It's not necessarily energetic or bombastic, but instead reflective and distant. By the time Greg comes in, the mood has been deliberately set to put you in just the right mindset for the album. You won't be happy, or angry, or whatever mood you were in before the album started. Instead, you'll be in a delicate state of insightful melancholy, which is perfect for absorbing the lyrics that Gregory sets out. They're not completely stunning, but that's perhaps the point - vague enough for you to project on, while having enough substance and flaws to have a character of their own.
By the time "Seasonal" comes around, the band seems to be more instrumentally involved while keeping the same atmosphere that the previous tracks were building. Josh Kirby weaves a gorgeously unforgettable riff that dances around the complimentary echo-drenched piano, which segues nicely into the calmer parts of the song. "Hudson" is just as fast and explosive as anything on "Waves" was, if not more so. "Under a Falling Sky" is arguably one of the standout tracks, despite functioning as little more than an interlude. And "Stones", which normally wouldn't warrant a mention because it is not on the standard edition of the album, is actually just as effective a closing track as "Apsides".
The production here deserves special mention; self-produced by the band (but mixed and mastered by professionals), everything is crystal clear and profoundly polished. It brings out the emotion in the songs much like salt brings out the flavor in meat. The band benefited from having more raw sounding production in the past, but the songs here wouldn't sound better any other way.
Shortly after this album's release, Moving Mountains announced an indefinite hiatus, meaning that this album might very well be their swan song. While that's relatively bitter news to hear from a band coming off an absolute triumph like this, it's nice knowing that what could end up being the group's last release is also their most impressive. Not many bands can pull off condensing their sound into a more manageable mainstream package without becoming irreversibly boring, but MovMou do it effortlessly and with style.