Cymbals Eat Guitars. Now, this Brooklyn quartet may have a bizarre name, but on much of their LP, the cymbals (and percussion) do eat the guitars! At the very least they match up to them, filling their songs with incredible energy, integral to the many tempo changes which jaggedly divide the tracks. Speaking of energy, Joseph D’Agostino’s vocals burst onto Why There Are Mountains with raw fieriness, but later on in the album we are witness to a more relaxed and honest twang, on ‘Cold Spring’, ‘Share’ and ‘What Dogs See’.
The breezy, carefree opener, ‘…And the Hazy Sea’ features various tempo changes, alongside a glorious mess of instruments and a prominent riff which glides through the 6-minute track. Much like the album as the whole, the song is quite a journey, containing relaxed piano interludes suddenly giving way to shrieks and dramatic blasts of percussion, as well as several moments where you think the song will conclude only to forcefully resurface.
D’Agostino’s otherwise perplexing lyrics become clearer on the slower, distortion-filled ‘Indiana’, which progresses into rousing piano and trumpets. He mentions “Lake Michigan”, journeys across the “I-90 through utter desolation” before professing “I am a deserted bus depot” and depicting “Musty rooms house racks of fur jackets/ Spattered with plasma /On a bus in Indiana”. While the thunderous introductory songs drew me into Why There Are Mountains, the quieter tracks actually intrigued me more.
One of these, ‘What Dogs See’, features a succinctly matched pair of synths, which paint a ethereal dreamscape including “serpents riding on all sides of me”, “stars in the night sky” and “voids crystallis[ing]”. All of this is accompanied by surprisingly soaring and hymnal vocals which stretch into the distance. This slow burning track is then interrupted by the delightfully poppy and bouncy ‘Wind Phoenix (Proper Name)’. Filled with lively xylophone hooks, it’s the most immediately accessible song on the LP, a mesh of jumpy bass, glittering, gliding guitar and playful percussion.
While it initially proved a slight effort to delve into the obscure musings, riotous shifting timings and chaotic intensity of Why There Are Mountains, it was a thoroughly enjoyable ride.
Words: Jason Williamson