Opening up with a Chilly Gonzales- inspired tropical percussive assortment filled with maracas, cow-bell, and other various sounds that one may hear in their mind when thinking of the Caribbean on ‘Two Step’, which is followed by pleasantly droning synths and catchy vocal cheers, it becomes clear that Bear Mountain is a group whom it can sometimes be a little tricky to exactly pinpoint and properly classify. At one point in this opening track, there is even a dubstep bass-wobble interlude while chiming, crystal-like shimmering plays over top and although this rambunctious concoction of sound may sound a little overwhelming and incongruent, the end result is an adventurous and brave experiment through the avant-garde of musical exploration.
XO is this Vancouver-based quartet’s first full-length album, and although it is short, at only seven tracks and clocking in at around half an hour, it contains a ton of depth and seemingly never ending layers of sound, sample and live instrumental alike, while also varying greatly in song structure and composition while still retaining overarching themes and feelings of wanderlust, joy, discovery, and celebration.
The group compares their music to that of Ray Lamontagne and Damien Rice, both of which can be heard without looking too far in but also never really sticking it in your face as these sensibilities, while present, are skillfully entwined with their own unique sound. Bear Mountain has crafted a really neat electronic album with catchy and contagious dance qualities without sacrificing any of the faults that may be seen in dance music like repetition and shallowness. Synthesizers beep, blop, shine, and fuzz along with beats that can lull anyone into a head-bobbing trance, all while being integrated with a tribal vibe that will make you feel as though you just stumbled upon an Amazonian rave treasure.
On ‘Congo’, the group meticulously loops pleasurably fun vocal samples atop a really interesting mix of bongo tapping, analogue synth tickling, and even some electric guitar. What Bear Mountain shine at is their ability to construct and deconstruct tracks as they continuously strip down and add upon their songs at just the right moments, making sure everything hits right yet also making sure never to have anything sound too rushed or forced. With ‘Sing’, the group again shows just how well they are able to craft their songs as they continually work upon backbone bass lines and percussion while always allowing their shimmery, psychedelic front to keep the sparks going and your body grooving along, never letting a song go stale.
Seemingly carrying the torch where Caribou left off, Bear Mountain makes a great introductory step into the experimental/dance electronic scene with XO and although its length may feel a little unsatisfactory, let’s just hope there’s much more to come.