(Self-released, CD, digital download)
It's a safe bet that few basements in Vermont — or at the very least in Enosburg Falls — have produced more excellent music than that of the Cave of Legends. The dank subterranean room beneath coffee shop/secondhand music and DVD emporium the Flying Disc on E-Burg's main drag was for many years the creative home of Farm. That group was among the most respected, and yet underappreciated, bands in recent Vermont history. Though Farm have been fairly quiet since 2012, the Cave has hardly gone dark. There, Farm cofounder and Flying Disc owner Ben Maddox has produced the soundtracks to his arty underwater nature documentary series, I See Fish People. Most recently, the CoL has been the birthing room for a new band with significant Farm DNA: the Mountain Says No.
Though Farm fans should find a lot to like about TMSN's debut record, JV, it really only resembles a Farm record in spirit and, thanks to Maddox and fellow Farm-hand Jedd Kettler, lineage. For one thing, JV is just harder and louder than almost anything in the Farm canon. Some credit for this might belong with the non-Farm half of the band, bassist Andrew Frappier and drummer Justus Gaston.
That's evident from opener "Come and Decide," which begins spare and mysterious before assaulting with a flurry of raw guitar punch at the manic hook. A sinister edge too, shows up early on in the ominous, black (Sabbath) tones of the album's second cut, "Iron and Metal."
Farm were collaborators, writing collectively and swapping instruments constantly. As a result, the band was a sonic chameleon, able to morph from gothic experimental folk to heady art rock and beyond at any moment. This is the clearest link between Farm and TMSN. Though certain songs have nominal writing credits, TMSN approach music making as a group. According to Maddox, some songs were fleshed out from sturdy skeletons, while others took physical form from the specters of fleeting riffs, all with considerable group input. That lends JV an unpredictable quality on par with Farm's, with equal stylistic variety.
"Ricky the Rider" is twitchy guitar rock with swampy undertones. "3,000," a meandering work of lugubrious slacker rock shaded with electric banjo twang, does recall Farm. But the following cut, "Who Could Say?" is a kaleidoscopic jumble of spindly arpeggios and world-beat rhythms that's something like Pavement by way of Fela Kuti. "Restaurant" is a gnarled knot of swampy southern rock. "The Mountain" — whose lyrics give the band its name — is like Crazy Horse-era Neil Young philosophizing on hallucinogens. "King Grifter" is a classic Kettler tune, and another cut that faintly recalls Farm. "The Bomb" is indeed bombastic. It's also a sturdy bridge to album closer "Statistik," which is weird, erratic, hairy and also triumphantly charismatic. In other words, a lot like JV itself.
JV by the Mountain Says No is available at themountainsaysno.bandcamp.com. The band plays a release show at the Monkey House in Winooski on Saturday, June 27, with Dino Bravo and Lake Milk.