Folk music (whatever that means in 2015) has an inherent ability to conjure images of landscape. From bluegrass's evocation of smoky Appalachia to the swampy delta blues of Mississippi/Louisiana, folk music is often irrevocably tied to the place where it was created.
Images of phantasmal mountain ranges, lakes sparkling like broken diamonds in the summer sun and clouds racing like stallions across the sky, seem to be psychically transmitted via the wordless communication of steel strings, even if you know nothing of the origin of a recording. The music, like the land itself, runs deep with strata of history, meaning and associations.
On The Cold, the debut release from Montreal's Man Beyond Mountain, the Quebecois singer/songwriter conjures a multitude of landscapes, mostly of the American West, where Alex Beaupre Laperriere was spending some time as a student. You can hear traces of the stormy mercurial skies of the Pacific Northwest, along with the sunburned mysticism of the Mojave Desert, even a bit of swaying beach bum swagger, over the course of this too-short four-track EP.
While the music may shift as quickly as a landscape viewed out the window at 80 mph, Laperriere's sweet and soulful vocals provide continuity - a beating heart amidst the changing landscape. The Cold EP will appeal to fans of Jose Gonzales/Junip with a flurry of nearly-classical acoustic guitars and feather light vocals, as well as other indie folk favorites like Iron & Wine. Thankfully, to his credit, Leperriere's influences don't stop at the last decade, instead throwing back to all manner of folk rock classics, most notably Simon & Garfunkel, like on album opener "The Silver Sky." Given that he's singing harmonies with himself, that's no mean feat!
Leperriere claims there is no great origin story for The Cold. Instead, the only impetus was to write music, to have an excuse to work on and finish something. It's becoming almost a natural law at this point that the less pre-meditation there seems to be in an album cycle, the better it sounds to my ears. While billion dollar media companies spent tens of thousands, trying to come up with a foolproof predictive pop music algorithm, quiet releases such as The Cold come with no splash and no great designs, simply to express one's self to the best of one's ability, and make it as sound as best as possible.
Man Beyond Mountains' The Cold EP pulses and breathes with a freshness and vitality that mainstream rappers would kill for, that cannot be emulated in the most advanced digital simulacrum. This is folk music for 2015, whatever that may mean.
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