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Black Mountain - In the Future (Special Edition) Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 March 2008
ImageI remember one day in the ninth grade as if it were yesterday. In typical fashion I was sitting at my desk bored out of my skull and scribbling profundities to myself, when our science teacher strolled in and slammed his massive teacher’s guide down to the floor. “We’re gonna watch a movie,” he told us, “and you better pay attention.” He then put on one of the greatest films I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch, LSD: Trip or Trap? It’s a lively romp through an acid soaked world filled with dire warnings, hot dogs with troll faces, and very uncool haircuts. My life was changed forever.

Now, all these hot dogs with faces later, I’ve been presented with Black Mountain’s In the Future, a CD filled with music that’s supposed to make me long for those days of “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and altered consciousness. All I can say is that after a few listens a long-dormant brain cell popped open and I recalled that, although I enjoyed STCFTHOTS, John Coltrane played my music of choice when entering the enlightenment arena, and I always thought most of the psychedelic bands were dreary, depressing and dopey.

Loved by the Flaming Lips and promoted by just about every friend I have over the course of the last few weeks, the one thing that I can tell you about Canada’s Black Mountain is they’re not dopey. But with a boatload of songs about witchery and darkness and “Tyrants” and such, the other two D’s are in full bloom. That is, if you can link boatloads, blooming and black in your now expanding mind.
If pressed I’d have to say Black Mountain sounds like Black Sabbath fighting Uriah Heep for control of the world with Tom Petty mediating while singing lead. Every once in awhile the Petty-ness breaks out in full force, as on “Angels,” and sometimes you’re begging for the Uriah Heep organ screech to arrive and cut through the dense, sometimes plodding riffing and let in a little light, such as on the opener “Stormy High,” but most of the time you stare at your home stereo system waiting for something more to happen.

There’s a neat song called “Wild Wind” that sounds like Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust that I find enticing and wouldn’t you know it, it’s only a minute-thirty-four long. It’s the best song on the album any way you look at it.

Flashing past all the other songs on In the Future, such as “Wucan” with the lyrics “The howlin’ ones, high up on the sun/Flower, flower train, that won’t bring you home,” we come to “Bright Lights,” the album’s tour de force that is being compared to Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” I can see why. It’s long, more than 16 minutes, it shifts from phased organ noodlin’ to drivin’ sledgehammer guitar, and is filled with minimalist abstract lyrics which, thankfully, don’t mention albatross. I imagine the light show’s got to be outstanding, and if I was planning on seeing Black Mountain at anytime in my life, this is the song I’d be looking out for.

So, getting back to my ninth grade movie (or at least how I remember it), the anti-hero of LSD: Trip or Trap badgers his girlfriend Sweet Sue into dropping some acid. Things are groovy for about three seconds and then Sue starts seeing melting icemen bend each other over in anti-hero’s mother’s flower display, so he realizes its time to brave the streets of Inglewood and drive her home. Naturally the red lights look quite beautiful, and there’s a massive head-on collision, and everyone dies.

On a scale of one to ten, that’s slightly more uplifting than Black Mountain’s In the Future.

Extra Features
The special edition of In the Future comes with a second disc, Future Sounds (not to be confused with the wonderful compilations put out by Tank Farm), which contains three bonus songs: “Bastards of Light,” Thirteen Walls” and “Black Cat,” which I believe are the three best songs period, and it set me to wondering why they were left off. Then it dawned on me that In the Future is a concept album of some sort, dealing with the magical overthrow of the planet which casts us all into a darkness so desolate that we can never imagine getting out. Or maybe that’s just the way that I felt after five or six listens.

The second CD also comes with a digital download of the primary release in MPEG-1 format at a bit rate of 198 kbps, for which I must give them kudos. When played side by side on my Mac I couldn’t hear much difference between the download and my downloaded CD.

A standard CD at 44.1khz, In the Future is clean and articulate. The mix is crisp and clear and the drum sound is really really spectacular. From a purely sonic viewpoint In the Future is a real winner. And I’ve just got to mention that the loose drum sound on “Stormy High” sounds so much like Bill Ward’s on the original Black Sabbath album that he may have cause for legal action. When I put it on my home theater system and turned it up my windows pulsated like shimmering panes of liquid air … at least that’s what I scribbled in my notebook. I drove around Long Beach with my windows down and a couple of guys gave me the Ronnie James Dio evil eye hand sign (complete with lip curl) so my disconnect from In the Future is either A) a sign of maturation or B) an indicator that they just don’t make stoner/trippy music like they used to. This may turn out to be a classic, but I’d rather listen to Lamb Lies Down on Broadway for the 10,000th sparkly time.

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