Album: Common Prayer – There is a Mountain

common-prayerOk, so it’s true, listeners. There is a mountain. It has its roots planted in old-time folk, back-country blues, gutsy 50s doo-wop and military brass, but it is reaching.. well, somewhere into the sky. Or the future. Somewhere strange and starlit. This is a record primarily defined by its fantastically edible texture, all gorgeous crunches and clicks, bells and machines, whoops and hollers. I want to squeeze it! I want to stroke it! I want to have it playing while I go running through wholesome landscapes!

But let it not fool you. Although some of the more experimental segues are, well, perhaps a bit wrong-footed, they are sometimes exhilarating, swooping in from unexpected angles. Try the whiny, creepy American Sex, which dissolves into strange oriental tabla and temple bells and then to a quote from the Good Book.

‘Experimentation’ might be self-indulgent, but if there really are risks being taken, I can’t begrudge the odd stumble. Particularly when the sweet tired fragility of Jason Sebastian Russo’s voice seems, sometimes, so lost and alone. “I like our math, our shapeless geometry/ I like our map, our disco topography”, he whispers, and the precision of the geometry is engulfed in the shapelessness.

If I have one complaint, it is that this record does not allow itself enough space to drift off into these kind of dreamy, shapeless snowscapes more often, the kind that Fleet Foxes or Shearwater run in. Perhaps There is a Mountain is, in places, too effortful and over-produced, or jam-packed with the chips and splinters of a wide musical vocabulary. Too “curated”, perhaps. But have faith, there’s time. Mountains are to be climbed, and if Common Prayer want to push on and reach the top by nightfall, well, they have wings.

Words: Jen Rouse

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