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Pink Mountaintops - Peacock Pools (Album Review)

Thursday, 12 May 2022 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Laura Pleasants

Pink Mountaintops’ fifth LP is a product of the pandemic, with the conveyor belt of creativity caused by lockdown showing no sign of letting up just yet. The band has long been an outlet for Stephen McBean, who has a foot in two camps thanks to his ongoing work in Black Mountain. The difference between the two projects is generally reflected in Pink Mountaintops’ electronic experimentation running clear of Black Mountain’s rock roots. On ‘Peacock Pools’ those differences are cranked up.

On the one hand, you’ve got several meat and potatoes, straight up rock ‘n’ roll songs, and on the other things go way beyond previous electronic dabbling. Influences range from McBean’s liking for punk—evident on the excellent opening cover of Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown—to musings from his new Moog. Having just relocated as the pandemic was breaking out, he found himself with a new home studio that needed testing, recording the first seeds before embarking on another album trait: collaboration via file sharing.

Music would ping to and fro between McBean and his friends, all confined to a similar thumb-twiddling existence.

He admits that because there was so much fragmentation to the process that things are “all over the place” but insists it still “feels very cohesive”. The truth is, though, that to the casual listener that’s unlikely to be the case.

Some other straightforward rockers are the highlight of the album: Nikki Go Sudden, a tribute to the late Swell Maps star, is dazzling, as is early single Lights of the City, where a stonking riff provides the catalyst. On Lady Inverted Cross, the one track where these bare bones are enhanced rather than swamped by electronica, things get really interesting as stunning synths sit atop a grimy underbelly. The more heavily synthetic tracks, though, are middling.

Science fiction plays a big role in ‘Peacock Pools’ and McBean namechecks John Carpenter during Blazing Eye, the first track where he can be found toying with his new Moog. You Still Around starts to sound a bit confused and odd, with bells and flutes-adorned prog-rock drifting into a psychedelic haze. Influenced by Sun Ra and freeform jazz, Shake The Dust employs a disco beat across six minutes, but it all gets a little too close to Captain Beefheart for comfort. 

It's a shame that McBean chose to house the opposite sides of his recent output in the same collection: if the electronic tracks had been given their own space then the impressive rocky songs could have been enhanced by more similar cuts. As such, things feel too mixed up to be enjoyed as a whole, despite highlights in both camps.


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