‘Ghost Mountain’ was produced by Jim Barr, the live bassist with Portishead, whose Geoff Barrow signed Thought Forms to his Invada label a few years ago. The soundscapes and drones from their previous self titled debut are still here, but the songs work on many more different levels than before. The ideas have developed and have been applied in a way that makes a bigger impression.
Don’t expect this record to begin with something that’s going to gently ease you into the atmosphere, as ‘Landing’ throws you headfirst into a world of doom. A snarling, siren-like drone repeatedly flashes like a warning, building up the dread while your ears are subjected to the terrifying screams of doomed souls confined to eternal limbo. The euphoric ‘Ghost Mountain You And Me’ takes you to a far more harmonious place, an attractively haunting piece of post-rock where the warm, distant vocals glide over the icy panorama of the music.
Dhariwal and Romijn’s voices and guitars correspond beautifully on the bleak swoon of ‘Sans Soleil’, an essential moment of shoegazing magic that precedes the LP’s colossal centrepiece ‘Burn Me Clean’. With a heavy sense of a shamanic ritual taking place, to call it “dark” would be a major understatement: it’s absolutely fucking apocalyptic. It’s also a powerful example of how exploration can create something truly magical, and each one of its 12 minutes and 58 seconds are vital. This is the sort of thing that the term “mind blowing” was invented for. It takes its time to go exactly where it needs to, and uses its space to make each note resonate with maximum impact. The careful structure, impeccable precision and patient timing of the piece allows the intensity and mood to build into one of overwhelming devastation, as squealing, earth-shattering guitars come roaring out of the darkness.
Providing an excellent contrast, the urgent ‘Only Hollow’ has a title that nods to MBV, and delivers a short blast of fuzzy, abrasive riffage topped with dazed, sighed vocals. Elsewhere, gentle textures and fragile beauty emerge from ‘Afon’, a delicate and well executed moment that sounds like it could collapse at any second if it wasn’t for the awesome dynamic range possessed by this musical unit.
Like on ‘Burn Me Clean’, they sound like summoning some sort of mighty spirit during the stunning ‘Song For Junko’, but the mood is certainly a lot more uplifting. With its wonderful intertwining guitars, soaring harmonies and explosive drumming, it’s the burst of light that was needed to take the record somewhere else. It builds, it releases, then rises in a most blissful way before climaxing in a blizzard of distortion. Magic. The closing ‘O’ builds with slow, brooding menace, taking you on an eerie final part of the journey as otherworldly sounds rip through your ears. After five minutes or so, it suddenly bursts into utter chaos for one final assault before droning to a moody close.
‘Ghost Mountain’ is a truly immersive piece of work that captures the mind and takes it on an extraordinary trip. By fine tuning their ideas, the band have unlocked a sound of their own and made a memorable record that has moved them into a higher league.