Album Reviews

Speck Mountain – Some Sweet Relief

(Carrot Top) UK release date: 15 June 2009

It hasn’t taken long for Speck Mountain to follow up their well received Summer Above debut with this second release, recorded two years later in what sounds like desperate circumstances.

In fact music seems to have been the only outlet for band members Marie-Claire Balabanian and Karl Briedrick, who freely admit to being in a heightened state of depression and loneliness when in the studio. Sweet relief, indeed.

Unfortunately, while unhappiness and desperation can often lead a band to produce its defining album, the reverse is the case here. The music is emotionally spent and largely one dimensional, the relief of the title seemingly found through complete exhaustion.

Balabanian’s vocals are wearisome throughout, while the accompanying textures, while sonically often pleasing, are of one pace only. This makes the introduction of saxophones to I Feel Eternal something of a watershed that the listener jumps on, hoping desperately for a bit of extra colour, but alas the moment passes as soon as it arrived.

On Backslider they even hint at being a slowed-down School of Seven Bells, but by the time this segues into Backsliding the life has begun to drain from the music once again, so that while the textures are nice and the mood relaxed, there is also a feeling of overindulgent self examining, as if Speck Mountain are asking their listeners to lie on the bed and stare at the wall for prolonged periods.

When the music does finally break out of its shell in a bout of vocalising that brings to mind (but doesn’t resemble) The Great Gig In The Sky, there is a kind of release, but still an inherent drudgery in the backing that fails to lift it out of first gear.

You’ll gather, then, that this proves an ultimately frustrating listen. While there are resemblances Spiritualized, what should be a slow burning record, white hot in its intensity, is laid to rest sounding rather limp and uninspired. Maybe it sounds better in a winter climate, but, unfortunately for Speck Mountain, it will be several months before even that small hope can be fulfilled. Sadly at the present time, it’s a sweet relief when it’s all over.

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More on Speck Mountain
Speck Mountain – Badwater
Speck Mountain – Some Sweet Relief
Q&A: Speck Mountain
Speck Mountain – Summer Above