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Space Mountain - "Gangantua" | Album Review

by Samantha Martasian (@puppypproblems)

“I’m the last guy on earth and I’m throwing a party for my birthday” Cole Kinsler tells us in the opening lines of Gargantua. He pauses and then adds in good humor “but no one cares”. “Big Brains” serves as a perfect entrance to Space Mountain’s debut album; it reflects the ups and downs that Gargantua embraces as a whole. Sometimes sweet. Sometimes sad. Sometimes funny. Always genuine.

Gargantua’s sound will certainly remind you of other artists. The plucky, bright guitar tones feel like a nod to basement rockers like Sat. Nite Duets or the Fatty Acids. Kinsler’s vocals ring in as low but soothing, much like you may have heard from Dave Benton (Spook Houses/ LVL UP), but what’s so charming about Space Mountain is that he’s not really trying to be any of these. Instead, Kinsler’s focus seems to be assembling a music project that exists not to be cool or to mimic artists who may have influenced him, but to give the audience the gift of uncut authenticity. It is an album that rejects the comfort of tidy absolutes and instead offers a more flexible, modest mood that shifts from song to song, and sometimes even from line to line. Where some recording artists strive to make an album with a tangible, consistent feeling, Kinsler’s focus is almost the opposite. Gargantua is an album that is more than anything about the inconsistency of feelings- or sometimes their duality. Tracks like “She Saw Me” carry moments of sweetness followed up by “Voyager 2” which shifts the tone to a story of the narrator’s frustration to connect not just to one single person, but instead to some larger presence with lyrics like “sometimes it seems no one cares what you got to say/ are they really listening in the first place?”  He asks these questions, hard questions, and then moves on to another thought, or a story about someone else instead of wallowing. 

Musically, Gargantua is gentle. Oaky guitar tones stretch into lulling melodies. Bright, full movements are occasionally broken up by more personal ones. When Kinsler’s lyrics begin to search for a way to sort impossibly complex thoughts, the comforting echoes of jogging guitars lead back to a sense of calm. At times the songs breathe in and become denser, more instrumentally powerful and commanding, and then they thin out before they become overwhelming. If Gargantua were a video game scene, it would be a big map with many different landscapes, all coexisting close to each other. You have the opportunity to zoom out and see all the feelings and moments from far away as small parts of a big whole, and then through each song, you’re able to zoom in to each of them and experience them up close. These landscapes are wrapped up in the last track of the album, which ends with “It’s the journey and not the destination/ isn’t that the cheesiest phrase I know?”

In the end, Gargantua feels a lot like a long love letter. Not to just a person in particular, but to mountains, birds, dying stars, the sounds that surround us and also the stillness. It is a an embrace of the intangible. Kinsler avoids painting himself as a cooler-than-life-rocker or a tortured sad boy. Instead, through Gargantua, he stands humbly in the raw light of his songs. No gimmick. Just a songwriter in awe of all he sees and feels. The sad things. The sweet things. The funny things. Everything.