Los Angeles-based electronic/beat producer Take should have released his newest LP, Only Mountain, under the title “Give a Cephalopod a Sounds Effect Machine.” Such a name would fit a work seemingly produced by an eight-armed creature experimenting with computer generated noises. Considering the oceanic domination of squid, octopus and cuttlefish, Take should consider such a comparison a compliment. He has created a sound-scape appropriately interesting for their intellect.
Only Mountain is an electronic album best taken as a whole. Songs whirl and wind across the 40-odd minutes with a range of digital effects. Beeps, whines, hums, thuds, thumps, dives and drums come in and out of songs that never seem to climax nor plummet according to any traditional song structure. While one isn’t at risk for confusing the tracks as all being the same, a present cohesion and lack of any true high or low point, makes this an album difficult to describe as a work other than the sum of its parts.
A few shallow listens might lead one to believe Only Mountain is a jumble of sporadic noises. One could be forgiven for initially thinking Take went on a rum binge, plundered from his sizable sonic knowledge, threw the treasures into a typhoon, and allowed them to collect at random in the creases of a reef. But Take’s experience and expertise become apparent on successive listens. Just when you think its all lasers, sirens and electrified bubbles, an influence of Jazz will float in, like the horn on the otherwise extra-terrestrial “Crystallia” or the occasional string instrument. Other noises are harder to place. On “Quartz for Amber”, the airy background is accented with what I’ve come to believe is a samurai sword being scrapped across the rusted remains of a guillotine. Indistinguishable vocal samples seep from the background on various tracks, occupying a role no different than any of the other sound effects.
What essentially saves the album from becoming overwhelmed with its myriad noises is Take’s impeccable pacing. Some songs zip forward at a near spastic pace, while others plod along. Some such as “Implosions”, “Creosote” or the haunting “Begin End Begin” add a menacing contrast to the upbeat stretches. Changes in tempo and their emotive effects are seen within individual tracks as well. The album could definitely benefit from a greater variety of traditional sounds at the expense of some of the more intrusive effects, but thankfully no one noise maintains a prominent position for very long. This ebb and flow successfully pulls the listener along stretches that are barely clustered into rhythm. A listener willing to put in the time to get past the initial onslaught of aural textures will find an interesting project worth exploring.