There are times where you listen to a record and like it almost immediately; there are times you have to listen to a record three or four times before it hits you; and then there are the truly special times. The times where you only need to hear 30 seconds of an album to realize that it’s going to blow you away.
Deep Elm’s Moving Mountains provide one of those moments with Pneuma, one of those rare and indelible moments that remind or affirm why it is you listen to music in the first place.
I’m not going so far as to say the album is, or will be a classic, but I have no such qualms about saying that this cross-genre effort succeeds in every possible regard. From the sweeping grandeur of “Aphelion” and mesmerizing beauty of “Fourth,” from the raw power and emotion of “Cover the Roots” to the understated melancholy of “Sol Solis,” Moving Mountains run the gamut with only one constant remaining through all of the albums 45 minutes -- songwriting ability.
The aforementioned “Aphelion” packs a lot of punch in its two-and-a-half minutes. Somehow managing an epic sound in a miniscule timeframe, Moving Mountains begin the track gingerly, with tactful vibraphone and piano keystrokes before leading into lush atmospherics that quickly crescendo into the devastating vocals of Gregory Dunn. It all happens so quickly, but it sets the stage masterfully for even more breathtaking moments later on in the album.
“Cover The Roots / Lower the Stems” is Moving Mountains' foray into the late `90s Deep Elm sound, one rooted in power and conviction; Dunn adapts to this style well too, wailing away above a demure rhythm before the song kicks a notch higher and never looks back. The instrumentation sounds bigger by the minute, with a crescendo around the three-minute mark that rivals the best Explosions In the Sky has ever put to plastic. It’s entrancing, the ability of this quartet to effortlessly blend styles and sounds for a sound so rich that ‘gorgeous’ just doesn’t seem to do it justice.
There’s not a track on the album that’s less than stellar, but “Grow On, Grow Up, Grow Out” is Moving Mountains at their absolute, spellbinding best. The band starts with some clean, rhythmic chord progressions, before the light, airy vocals come into the mix, gradually picking up volume and intensity, just like the music behind it. The light pitter-patter of the drums becomes a cyclic pounding and the guitarists draw out their strumming until at once all is almost quiet again. Dunn sings gracefully over minimal instrumentation before a grand, sweeping current comes through and pushes all parts of the music louder, faster, and more intense before cresting amidst a wash of feedback.
It’s not over yet.
The drums and guitars rush back in, feeding off each other's energy -- Dunn's voice lowly drones in the background, and the louder the sound the more beautiful the scene. The song’s second crescendo is even
louder and more captivating than the first, and as the track gentle carries out you’re only going to want to hear it over again.
Moving Mountains have crafted, and emphasis on the word crafted, a very special album. All you’ll need is 30 seconds to agree.