Read anything about Sigur Rós from the last decade and it’s quite likely that you’ll come across some comparison between their music and the picturesque, volcanic landscape of Iceland. It’s become a bit of a tiresome cliché, though it is – of course – entirely fitting.
The Mountaineering Club have a peculiarly British take on this kind of musical landscape-painting. It is epic, lush and sweeping, but infused with an unmistakable sense of introversion. This is tangible in both the breathy vocals and the kind of electronic beats that have predominantly been associated with music of a claustrophobic, urban setting.
This Coldest Winter demonstrates TMC’s ability to effortlessly combine the fragile with the grandiose. At their biggest, they create an enveloping wash of sound, as at the apotheosis of first track Mallory – guitar tremolos, piano and strings cloaked in reverb, pushed forward by an insistent electronic beat. However, these forces are used sparingly. We Are One Heart consists mainly of voice and guitar, with delicate touches of piano, strings and minimal percussion. When the song finally starts to build, the gentle crescendo is cut short, leaving a trail of residual ambience in its place. The centre-piece of the EP, East England, is an understated miniature – a call-and-response-duet between voice and trumpet, and is followed by the bigger, bolder Nansen, complete with fuzzy bass (the first prominent bass-line on the album) and a driving synth ostinato.
Piano is by far the stand-out track on the EP. Its currency is subtlety, rather than grandeur. Essentially a song for just voice and piano, the vocal melody hovers beautifully around a few select notes above shifting piano harmonies. As the song progresses, it gradually gathers a ghostly haze of reverb-heavy, multi-tracked trumpet fragments, which rise up to smother the lonely voice and piano. A beautiful and enigmatic end to this collection of songs:
With a new EP and a performance at the End of the Road Festival on the cards, we can expect exciting things from these folks in the future.