Strange Mountain – Treasure Crescent

Chicago’s Lillerne Tapes netlabel is increasingly becoming quite the source of sonic delights, ranging from explorative ambient works to psychedelic bedroom pop and everything one might imagine circumnavigating such headspaces. This example is no exception, as Jakarta’s Strange Mountain aka Marcel Thee provides us with five achingly magical pieces on the limited cassette release “Slow Midnight”.

The choice of the cassette format, while experiencing a curious little resurgence amongst a number of hipster electronic labels and improvised noise terrorists, here seems absolutely fitting, as Thee’s distinctively wobbly clouds of elongated synthesized classicism are themselves heavily reliant on tape manipulation. The rare joy of these creations is that rather than the techniques themselves being a means to an end, the dense layers of chords, squeaks, bubbles and hisses are emotionally involving, consciously personal and immersive; arrangements which exist to be enjoyed rather than endured or simply ‘experienced’.

I have tried searching for adequate comparisons, and found such a quest to be rather tiring and ultimately fruitless. The most obvious benchmarks for involving ambient music would be the likes of Eno, Stars Of The Lid, Loscil, but here Thee seems to transcend his forebearers. There are intricate fragments of sound which lead me to remenisce elements of Radiohead’s more interesting work – some of the transitional sections of Kid A or the more experimental of the OK Computer-era B-sides perhaps. Ultimately though, “Slow Midnight” is unique, and all the more extraordinary a work for it.

Mike Phillips