Moving Mountains are awesome, no doubt about it. Their debut full-length, Pneuma established them as a powerful band with epic post-hardcore to rival Thrice and the Appleseed Cast, whilst their followup EP, Foreword, was even bigger, with songs stretching out to the nine-minute mark and refining their sound with even more crushing post-rock influences.
Their first self-titled EP is a worthwhile listen, then, to see how the band started out. It turns out it wasn't all that different -- as you might expect, the EP contains multiple songs that would appear as more fleshed-out numbers on Pneuma, but with enough differences to make this an interesting release in its own right.
Opening track "Perihelion" will be recognisable as an early version of "Aphelion," Pneuma's opening track. Shorter and without vocals, but with a more interesting horn part, there is also less of the explosive anger found on the album version and the production is noticeably less polished. The track transitions into "Aalastika," the second track on the album, which took me by surprise, being used to hearing the pounding intro of "Cover the Roots, Lower the Stems" at this point. "Aalastika" is more or less the same here as on Pneuma, but the vocals come in a lot later, meaning that more can be heard of the already-impressive guitar work.
"Sisyphus" is the EP's first ambient-ish interlude, featuring a drum machine that works very well here, but is perhaps fortunately absent from anywhere on Pneuma. You get a real sense that the band were just trying to find out what would work best for them, which is also seen on a slightly shorter version of "8105," which features strings instead of the horns found on the longer album version. The strings are less invasive, but more persistent, and are featured in more of the song, helping to drive it forward in its unfinished state.
"Xanadu" is another interlude, all chimes and effects, which fades out to just simple piano and vocals in an intimate way that is not really found on Pneuma. It sounds great, but at six minutes long, it would likely have made the full-length a bit too cluttered.
Closing the EP is "Sol Solis." Slower and much less cheerful than its album counterpart, the horns are also replaced by sparse Springsteen-esque guitar. The simple changes to the song give it a completely different feeling -- here, it's of hopelessness, but with a few tweaks it became one of the more upbeat songs on Pneuma.
The biggest difference, however, is that the EP version of "Sol Solis" is about three times longer, fading from the acoustic strumming to guitar noise washed in effects that gives way to a bizarre reversed ambient loop featuring backwards vocals, before building up again to one last dramatic climax, with pounding drums full of rage, before dying away, leaving only the same echoey noises that opened the EP and, interestingly, opened and closed the album as well. It's an incredible closer but, again, it wouldn't have fit on the album, where closer "Ode We Will Bury Ourselves" is its highlight.
Clearly, Moving Mountains is not as good as Pneuma. More lo-fi, a little less coherent and, in places, an obvious work in progress (in retrospect, at least). Though it's still a great listen, especially if the band's other work has already grabbed you. The EP is currently out of print, though it's floating around the internet on many a B-side and rarity blog and thread and who knows? It may end up getting reissued some time soon. But probably not by Deep Elm.