Black Mountain, Black Angels

Black Mountain may be hirsute hippies with a groovy melodic touch, but they're not so stoned that they'll pass up an opportunity to knock you on your ass. They're reminiscent of My Morning Jacket, only with Jethro Tull and Blue Cheer overshadowing Neil Young's influence. And, like Jim James, Black Mountain frontman Stephen McBean enjoys heavy riffage and getting woolly with classic-rock influences. But there's a heady folk-inflected flavor as well. It's not simply a chugfest—something even more apparent on their third album, Wilderness Hearts. While 2008's In The Future was a proggy acid-rock locomotive highlighted by 16-minute epic, "Bright Lights," their latest tightens the songcraft, indulges more of an art-folk vibe (like recent Midlake) and really showcases the talents of McBean's vocal counterpoint, Amber Webber. It's a dynamic approach that opens the windows more.

We would never say that of Black Angels, though, who prefer their claustrophobia. Guitars swelter in hot waves like road haze, the droning throb engendering a narcotic effect amplified by their albums' stuffy midrange-heavy hum. Their latest, Phosphene Dream, prunes back the fuzz for a crisper, more propulsive garage thrust. It still moves in a stupefied stagger, but is lighter on its feet with less buzz.


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