Review Summary: He's got the pipes; they've got the chops; Alta Mira has got the goods.
Two years ago, a relatively unknown band from New York's upstate Capitol Region released a modest five-track EP on the Albany based Indian Ledge Records label, entitled Fables and Fabrications
. A rich soiree of sound, constructed with intricate, yet understated guitar work over a timely rhythm section, all making way for the voice of Joe D. Michon-Huneau, who provides a steady stream of emotionally heavy lyrical outpourings. With that release, Alta Mira managed to cram as much substance into five songs as many bands sometimes put into twelve. It would be a long two years before we'd hear from them again, but Alta Mira has returned, having culled from the music bin a solid collection of densely textured, skillfully crafted aural devices that operate like clockwork, yet still leave room to breath. The talent, art and production are all here, and they are each of the highest caliber. The songwriting is meticulous and flowing, sometimes slithering around unforeseen corners, but always maintaining defined parameters throughout the album's lengthy venture.
A tambourine rattle draws the opening strings as Hunter Sagehorn's delicate guitar begins to wind a bed of song with which to lay Michon-Huneau's soft narrative across; all before giving way to the bottled rage of “Tambourine's”
heavy chorus. A strong opening statement, “Tambourine”
gives a good idea of the kind of things to come. Like a slowly unraveling sonic ball of yarn, “Din and Drone”
rolls the sound established in the opener into a deeper realm of introspection, placing the vibe on a warm, peaceful plain before unloading one of the album’s strongest melodies into the chorus. “The End of My”
begins with a crisp, opening guitar riff, setting up one of the most finely crafted pieces of musicianship featured on the album, eventually giving way to a layered vocal finale, drowning the listener in rich, layered melody. An album highlight is found in its sixth track and lead single, “Slumberjack.”
With the most original instrumentation on the album, the track captivates from the get-go with a thick, tugging bassline, which serves as a focal point throughout the song. A continuously escalating piece of music, “Slumberjack”
is the album’s most essential piece of listening material. “Buglight”
displays the group’s cohesive sound as well as any track on the album while it chugs ahead with a thick, bass-driven groove, affixed with one of the finest vocal performances on the release. Where album falls a bit short of the mark is in its tendency to follow a somewhat narrow path that, while fully explored, is not traveled far beyond --- causing deviations, like “Slumberjack”
, to stand out for being a bit different and unexpected.
If wandering guitars, introspective lyrical pondering and laid back indie-rock grooves aren't in your wheelhouse, this album is less likely to penetrate your psyche. If you are inclined to swing in such musical circles, while keeping an open, curious mind at all times, Alta Mira
is a fulfilling journey, loaded with treasures to unearth through repeated listens. Not every track on Alta Mira
is going to reveal its intricacies upon first listen - and this is part of what makes the album a success. A great deal of time and effort when into molding, shaping and smoothing these songs into the polished pieces that they are; just like cracking them open and revealing the beauty within requires time and effort on the part of the listener. Those who seek shall be rewarded with a wealth of quality listening material with which to fill their sonic bellies - while those unwilling to hunt for their musical sustenance could be left unfulfilled.
Alta Mira is...
Joe D. Michon-Huneau, Vocals
Hunter Sagehorn, Guitar
August Sagehorn, Bass
Tommy Krebs, Drums