Punknews.org
Black Mountain photographed by Toby Bannister

Black Mountain



Average Rating:






Hometown: Vancouver, BC (Canada)

About:

It’s only a cliché because it’s true, but the greatest records are timeless. Black Mountain’s self-titled debut album is just such a record, its roots leading twisting paths back into the past, while always sounding like ‘now’, like a future still to come. The work of a small collective of musicians operating from Vancouver, Canada, far from any industry buzz but firmly in the eye of their own storm of creativity, Black Mountain’s debut album was, of course, a beginning, but it also marked an ending " for Jerk With A Bomb, the group that preceded Black Mountain.

“We came from the punk scene, we were a punk band, sonically,” says bandleader Stephen McBean, of the group who, over their three-album lifespan, gathered together three future soldiers in the Black Mountain Army: Joshua Wells, Amber Webber and McBean. “After a while, we didn’t know where we fit in. Our music had changed. But then we took the new name, and everything fell into place. It fit the music.”

Begun as the fourth Jerk With A Bomb album, Black Mountain’s debut grew from skeletal sessions cut by McBean and Wells. “We lay down the bed tracks, the guitars and drums,” remembers McBean. “Matt [Camirand, bass] joined, and we changed the band name after a dream of how life could be different in the B section between Black Flag and Black Sabbath. Josh’s roommate Jeremy [Schmidt, keys] was lurking about. We asked him if he wanted to add some synth bleeps or whatever. He came back with all these orchestrated keyboard parts, and we said, ‘Oh, you should probably join the band now.’”

McBean had been sending Jerk demos to Chris Swanson of Jagjaguwar since their second album. “They were one of the few labels that got back to us, though they said they weren’t looking for new bands,” says McBean. But a slow avalanche of further McBean demos changed their mind; the label even signed Black Mountain’s sister group, Pink Mountaintops, whose debut album preceded Black Mountain’s by six months. “The advance for recording and mastering Black Mountain was a thousand bucks,” says McBean. “And Jagjaguwar said if we sold 3,000 records, that would be good. We were, like, ‘Awesome!’ Because Jerk With A Bomb had sold about twelve records in our whole career.”

They cut the album at the Hive in Vancouver, recording in “a big cement room with a tall ceiling, nice boomy acoustics, lots of natural reverb,” remembers McBean, “on an 8-track reel-to-reel tape recorder.” During the sessions, these elemental first Black Mountain tracks found their true shape: the wry, giddy shuffle of “Modern Music,” with its Roxy Music sax and Velvets-y chug; the epic, sky-staring riffage of “Don’t Run Our Hearts Around;” the hypnotic, gracefully heavy groove of “Druganaut;” the joyful rush of “No Satisfaction;” the dark, powerful blues of “Set Us Free;” the mysterious murk of “No Hits.” Here was a new classic rock, its reference points arcane and clear, its sound fresh, unfamiliar and irresistible.

The record easily sold more than the 3,000 Jagjaguwar were initially hoping for, aided by early press plaudits and the word-of-mouth buzz the album stirred. “It happened real quick,” remembers McBean. “We got a good review in Pitchfork " I was like, ‘What’s Pitchfork??’ " but it was cool, they were really supportive, and the UK was really supportive. I don’t know what the album initially shipped, but they had to scurry and repress it real quick.”

The album’s initial success saw the band take to the road, leaving their Vancouver enclave for stages across Canada, America and Europe. “It felt like there was a real explosion of excitement at shows,” remembers McBean. “The first couple of tours, we kinda were pretty shambolic. We wouldn’t write setlists, we’d just feel the energy in the room and call things out, jamming on songs like ‘No Hits’ and ‘Druganaut.’ It was a good time for live rock’n’roll: DJ booths were being transformed back to drum risers, people were digging 20 minute jams and there were bands like Comets On Fire and Oneida out there who we felt kinship with. I was into Faust and Amon Duul but had no idea of the scene of modern bands doing that stuff. And then we met those bands, and it was cool. And then we went on tour with Coldplay…and the adventures continued.”

Their jaunt across the world as guests of perhaps the biggest band in the world right then is a tale for another time, perhaps: the start of Black Mountain’s next chapter, and all that followed. For now, savour the compact, spacey brilliance of that cosmic, heavy and subtle debut album, expanded now with a raft of delicious bonus tracks scavenged from the Black Mountain Army archives.

“Usually when you’re done making a record and you’ve toured it a bunch, it’s hard to listen to it again for a long time,” says McBean. “The funny thing is when you hear your songs in strange contexts and don’t recognize them, like the other night I was watching that Kevin Bacon show with the murder cult and there was a surreal orgy scene, with Black Mountain playing on the soundtrack. Listening back to the first album again for the remaster, there were lots of things I dug about it, and it brought back a bunch of memories. When we made it, there were no expectations. We were hoping maybe twenty people would dig it. So everything that happened with it was really, really cool.”


Reviews

Black Mountain Black Mountain

Black Mountain

Black Mountain (2005)

Jagjaguwar

Current Releases

Black MountainBlack Mountain: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Black Mountain

Black Mountain: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

June 23, 2015

Related News

Tours: Murder By Death (midwestern US, Australia)
Murder By Death has announced an Australian run at the end of February, following a short stateside tour of the midwest at the beginning of the month. The band has also been in the studio as of late, recording their follow-up…
January 18, 2012
Tours: Pink Mountaintops (Black Mountain) to release "Outside Love" in May
Pink Mountaintops, the solo project of Black Mountain frontman Stephen McBean, will release a new album this May titled Outside Love. Jagjaguwar will release the record on May 5th. The album will feature 10 tracks and collaborations with Black Mountain members Amber Webber, Matthew Camirand, and Joshua Wells, Sweet Hereafter's Jesse Sykes and A Silver Mt. Zion's Sophie Trudeau. Click below…
February 07, 2009
Tours: Year End Lists: Onion AV Club, Stereogum, MTV
It's December, so music critics everywhere are raring to post their "Best of 2008" lists. To prevent every single story on Punknews.org from being another top ten list, we'll periodically summarize some of the more popular/submitted lists for you in a single story. The first batch includes The Onion AV Club who named Gaslight Anthem,…
December 10, 2008
Tours: Black Mountain at Stanley Park Singing Exhibition with New Pornographers, Evaporators, Destroyer
Black Mountain has been added to the upcoming Stanley Park Singing Exhibition in Vancouver, BC. The New Pornographers spearheaded event take place at Stanley Park's Malkin Bowl over two days to close out the summer. August 31st will feature a line up of Neko Case,…
July 30, 2008
Tours: The Weakerthans, Black Mountain, Stars on Polaris short list
The short list for the 2008 Polaris Music Prize has been announced. CBC Radio 3's Grant Lawrence (we affectionately remember him as a Smuggler) made the announcement in Toronto this morning with last year's winner Patrick Watson. The short list of bands vying for the $20,000 prize includes the Weakerthans,…
July 07, 2008
Tours: New Ladyhawk album, dates with Immaculate Machine, Black Mountain
Vancouver's Lawyhawk have set a March 4th release date for their new full length Shots. It follows up 2006's self–titled debut effort and 2007's Fight for Anarchy EP. Jagjaguwar is again handling the release. You can check out the song "I Don't Always Know What You're Saying" over at…
January 14, 2008
Media: Black Mountain: "Tyrants"
Vancouver's Black Mountain have released a new track from their upcoming full length In the Future. You can stream or download "Tyrants" via Pitchfork's Forkcast. Click below for the track listing as well. The new record, due on January 22nd via Jagjaguwar, follows…
November 23, 2007
Media: Patti Smith, Ted Leo, Pere Ubu, Black Mountain, Jay Reatard, F*cked Up at Pop Montreal
The annual POP Montreal festival is starting to shape up. Among the 300 artists to participate in the multi-venue fall music fair are punk poet laureate Patti Smith, Touch & Go's Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Toronto hardcore luminaries Fucked Up, post-punk pioneers Pere Ubu, Vancouver druganauts…
July 25, 2007
Tours: Black Mountain / Cave Singers
Vancouver's Black Mountain is set to hit the road this fall. The band will play a number of dates supported by Seattle's Cave Singers. They'll wrap up the year with an appearance at the All Tomorrow's Parties hosted Nightmare Before Christmas festival alongside Thurston Moore, Boris, Aphex Twin, Oneida and event curators Portishead.…
July 13, 2007

Exclusive Streams

Sponsored

Newest Reviews

Punknews.org Team

Managing Editor

Adam White

Contributing Editors

Kira Wisniewski Brittany Strummer Armando Olivas John Flynn Chris Moran John Gentile Mark Little

Copy Editor

Adam Eisenberg Britt Reiser

Podcast Producer

Greg Simpson

Publisher

Aubin Paul

ISSN 1710-5366

© Copyright 1999-2013 Punknews.org

Terms of Use Privacy Policy Contact Us About Punknews.org

Other Places to Go