Perhaps more than any other feature in the natural landscape, for us at OBLADADA, mountains have the greatest draw. Whether the mountain that dissolves earthwards from the soles of your feet is 200 or 20,000 feet high, the effect can be just as powerful. Assuming good visibility, standing at the crest, you look down on the surface of our planet as it pans out in great 360-degree rolling vistas, peppered with settlements, rivers, forests, coasts and seas expanding out into a shimmering horizon. Down there is the world most of us live in, our vehicles glistening like ants in the sun as they follow lines carved across the land.
It’s easy to understand that peaks often become places that exude some form of elation through elevation. Whether it’s a bird’s eye, a god’s eye view or just the origin of feeling ‘high’, time in the mountains can be potent stuff. Peaks are also hugely symbolic as gateways to all sorts of awakenings and enlightenment. Jeffrey Silverstein’s debut solo album You Become The Mountain grows out of this broad tangent. Silverstein outlining in our chat over email, that the album is inspired by the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, mindfulness meditation, long-distance running, and his work as a special education teacher.
The album opener A Dog’s Age wonderfully sets the scene for the entire album. Growing out of the sound of playing children, slowly transitioning into a thick clean guitar and heartbeat rhythm. Just as the opening 4 minutes feels like it’s going to be little more than a pretty intro, suddenly Silverstein offers a brief but tantalising meditation inviting you to create a mountain in your mind. The characteristics, the form, the scale, and the majesty of this peak expanding exponentially in the universe of your brain.
Musically, the following track Easy Rider, continues with a beautiful low-key guitar, pedal steel, and simple rhythmic blocks that paint the ambient twangs of Daniel Lanois dappled with pillowy Bill Callahan smudges. The stripped back By The Hand, slowly picks itself out of drum pads and heavy air. Everything so far, walks along a knife edge of rarefied country rock that’s somehow rescued from banality by the fact so much space and unhurried clarity drips off everything.
The horizon widens as a train puffs through the drum pads of Antelope Canyon before rough edges seep into view. Bernard feels like the most conventional formatting of these elements as it slowly shuffles forward, but despite an increase in dynamics, still has the dial firmly set at super chilled.
Cosmic Scene, at over 6 minutes, is the longest track and delights in more stretching mellowness before eventually growing rough note bending edges. Buried deep in the growing throb, Silverstein’s voice eventually solidifies with the zero gravity mantra ‘turn your life into a passing cloud, something of which you’re proud’.
Pleasant Life forms a short bridge to the misty mumbled drift of Return to Roses. The closer, Door At The Top of Your Head, carries a slight increase in clarity like it possibly functions as an indicator that the bucolic balm you’ve so pleasantly floated for the last 40 minutes is drawing to a close.
You Become The Mountain ultimately forms a hugely impressive task of somehow not quite falling into any particular hole. Boldly and unhurriedly creating work that could easily, with an insensitive nudge, get too top-heavy or needlessly fixated on detail. Standing at the junction between post-rock, filmic Americana, encrusted psychedelia, and warm ambiance, Silverstein shows he’s mining the sweet spot, as much as the wide-open spaces between all those zones.
This album clearly offers up a form of meditation on the physical and metaphysical of reaching the summit. Whether this is music that somehow animates at less oxygen-rich altitudes or through some mental flight, it’s a beautiful first full statement of intent by this artist.
The woozy flow of these 9 track floats past effortlessly and it’s a pleasure to be elevated by Silverstein’s beautifully airy sonic contouring.
You Become The Mountain is out now on cassette and digital here