The Mountain begins with “Forbidden City,” which immediately feels like the kind of throwback that emphasizes all the good parts of an old memory. The a loose, limber groove feels out every corner of the quantized grid with a tumble-dryer movement, while dub stabs shimmer and wiggle like liquid mercury. The distant vocal sounds like a vocoder, hinting at an old idea of the future that’s always been lovably cheesy. From there, Monteith and Manning go down any number of rabbit holes: slow, meditative dub techno in the vein of classic Deadbeat (“Yume No Serei”), Porter Ricksian magnetic storms (“Wormwood Theory”), pans-and-pots mnml (“We All Got The Bends”) and a delicious slice of full-throttle techno in “High Pressure,” where minuscule details rattle inside the hefty framework like loose screws.
Oh, and the basslines. Maybe it’s the influence of Manning, but this record features some of the finest, funkiest basslines on any Deadbeat record. The otherwise perfunctory “Down Time” is rescued by its addictive bassline, and the low-end really comes to the fore on “James Bond Island,” which sounds a bit like Spacetravel or Z@P trying to make a soca record. There’s a tongue-in-cheek tropical feel to its swung groove and big, honking synth melody, though the glitchy sounds are pure ’00s Berlin (or maybe Mannheim). The disco bassline really clinches the track, which the duo approach with a Karenn-like level of modulation—the groove feels alive and breathing.
Like many of Monteith’s recent projects, The Mountain errs on the side of being a little too long, but it’s so full of bright ideas that it’s hard to begrudge the sprawl. From the dissonant skronky thrust of “Born Of Confusion” to the cutesy “Bubbling Up,” with its profusion of squeaky, watery sounds, each track is vastly different than the last. And only “Bubbling Up” outwears its welcome, with each track going through so many micro-evolutions and livewire editing that each one is a journey more than a loop. (Even “Bubbling Up” turns pleasantly acidic in its second half.)
The sense of adventure on The Mountain is all the more inspiring because dub techno is a genre that usually rewards navel-gazing, with an endlessly repeatable formula that honestly hasn’t changed all that much since the ’90s. But Monteith frequently pushes the style to its limits, stepping outside the boundaries where necessary and using the philosophy of dub as a fundamental tool rather than just a sonic signifier. (Manning, too, frequently makes music where dub is an atmospheric, immersive touch, rather than a gimmick.) In its vision of minimal techno through dub, The Mountain is both comforting and refreshing, and about as epic as its title implies. It’s also the 50th release on Monteith’s BLRKRTZ label, which is the ultimate vanity project: an excavation of the past, present and future of one of electronic music’s most consistent artists.