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If Speck Mountain’s first two albums sound like they were recorded underwater, their third studio release, Badwater, finds the band washed ashore onto a dusty, sun-bleached desert. Under this big new sky, guitars are tighter and percussion is prismatic: white heat makes white light. True to Speck Mountain’s sound, Marie-Claire Balabanian’s soulful, breathy vocals heat the record, providing the warm tonal blanket to co-writer Karl Briedrick’s swirling, luminous guitars - both swelling together in search of some distant release.
The three years since the release of the band’s second album, Some Sweet Relief, found Briedrick and Balabanian undertaking journeys of personal transformation. “We went through a couple of years of not being able to do anything. Then we got the right band, and that changed everything,” confesses Briedrick. That “right band” consists of former Chin Up Chin Up drummer Chris Dye and former Pentecostal church organist Linda Malonis. Jolted by this generous new sound, the quartet recorded at John McEntire’s Soma EMS in Chicago, where McEntire also mixed many of the tracks.
But ultimately, this is a sound that is all their own. It is a record of relationships ending, of what we find when absences are created, of renewal. In this new landscape of cracked, brown earth, a steady gallop beats, a head-nodding amble. Feral, fleeting, wild electricity crackling in the air - a building heat in search of relief. No holding back. We are offered the redemptive baptism, like a coming desert downpour. Balabanian’s croon in the closing track of Badwater sounds off like an invocation: Lay down and watch the storm.
Andy says: Speck Mountain's debut LP made a huge impact at Piccadilly, now here comes their third installment of melancholy loveliness. Not a huge departure, and why should it be? Float on...