by Cole Kinsler (@dustetc)
Dark Mtns’ self-titled debut was put up on Bandcamp with little warning or fanfare, a deeply refreshing turn, given the typical world of nonsense built up around so many new bands. Dark Mtns was born out of a collaboration between Philadelphia’s Josh Mackie (of Gunk) and Zack Robbins (of Superheaven). While both Gunk and Superheaven are impressive bands in their own right, Dark Mtns paves its own path with an imaginative yet familiar sound.
Robbins and Mackie’s songwriting and recording aesthetic clearly culls from a wide range of influences. The songs on Dark Mtns do an excellent job of sounding accessible and familiar without being imitative or unoriginal. Opener “Way Home” serves as an excellent introduction to their hazy but polished sound. What sounds like a guitar part played back in reverse fades in before bass and drums kick in. It’s a beautiful and slow-burning opener, with warm vocals repeating “You can find your way back home.” “Wake to Dream,” a personal favorite, brought me back to the sounds of Beck’s Mutations; a quietly plucked acoustic guitar line sits behind the lazy tremolo of its electric counterpart and Mimi Gallagher adds airy backing vocals to the chorus: “I wake myself to dream”. Namesake track “Dark Mtns” is a sluggish fuzzed-out trip reminiscent of Alex G or June Gloom. The more upbeat tracks, like “Another Year” brought me back to San Francisco’s short-lived Beulah, who had the same knack for melodies that were both sunny and nostalgic. Dark Mtns seem like a band that could’ve participated in that Elephant 6 scene, if only timing and circumstances had allowed. They also craft the same kind of dreamy left-of-center pop music that once came out of the Athens, GA scene.
Dark Mtns have crafted an utterly beautiful pop record with their self-released debut. While it is still going unnoticed by many, word-of-mouth may work its slow magic for this one. Robbins and Mackie have an adept songwriting talent that pulls from a wide swath of the indie-music realm. Dark Mtns manages to maintain a cohesive mood, while never feeling repetitive. It’s just as much an album for a neighborhood stroll as it is a rainy day.