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Speck Mountain – Badwater

Nicola Sloan


Describing their sound as ‘ambient soul’, Speck Mountain are a band from Chicago, Illinois. This is their third album, and their first album as a four piece, but fans of Speck Mountain should fear not: there is no great departure in style. While it’d be a little offhand to say the songs all sounded the same (well, very offhand for an album review), this album does exactly what it says on the tin. This is no bad thing; it’s ambient soul; it’s for chilling out to.

Got a lazy afternoon coming up? You lucky thing. Slap on some Speck Mountain and relax, unwind and let your thoughts drift. The focus is, as with the previous two albums, on the combination of the smooth, clear female vocals and chiming guitar, but there is some keyboard and organ accompaniment and some unusual, inventive drumbeats, creating rich textures and a sound to wrap yourself in like a warm fuzzy blanket.

The album opener is the guitar-led, steady groove of Caught Up. As always with Speck Mountain there is an echoey, shoegaze quality to the music (the band have often, in fact, been compared to nineties shoegaze giants Mazzy Star) and it sounds as though the album was recorded in an underwater cave. But that doesn’t mean this album is without its hooks. Flares has an infectious chorus and fine organ accompaniment, while Badwater boasts a cool mutated drum beat and kaleidoscopic riffs.

Final track Watch The Storm goes all vintage psychedelia with an electric organ and the inclusion of some uplifting choral backing vocals near the end; it’s just a shame that the track doesn’t quite take off like you’d expect it to at this point but just dies off. Also Young Eyes is (whisper it) rather dull and ploddy. At just nine songs in length it’s a relatively short album so it was surprising that many of the tracks weren’t longer; considering the chilled style of the music it would have made sense for the songs to take longer to unfold. But these are small gripes with an otherwise lush album.The mellow grooves do mean this album is so laid back it’s almost horizontal at times. If you’re looking for something that really grabs you and swings you around the party then this probably isn’t it. But if you’re looking for music to relax into; a nice mellow accompaniment to a lazy summer’s afternoon, then this album will in all probability be right up your street. This is music to lose yourself in.