Audio Mixer: Koen Holtkamp.
Recording information: Uniform Recording, Philadelphia, PA (2014).
Photographer: Kurt Mangum.
Island is the second collaborative effort on Trouble in Mind by guitarist Chris Forsyth and Mountains' keyboardist Koen Holtkamp. Their first was 2012's fine Early Astral. That record featured a pair of long, spiraling, post kosmiche-esque jams. The four tracks on Island are, by contrast, more focused. This is somewhat ironic. Where the earlier album was prepared during a year of rehearsals, the inspiration for this one occurred while hanging out for a few days on a Jersey Shore beach. Afterwards, each musician brought general ideas to a Philadelphia studio. The set was created layer by layer in 48 hours. Opener "Sun Blind" is mostly a squalling, distorted exercise in free-form electric guitar feedback and Terry-Riley-esque synth minimalism, and is deceptive. The in-your-face dynamics somewhat disguise the serpentine lines that offer a modal melody. "Long Beach Idyll" consists of a two-chord acoustic guitar vamp, droning harmonium-like synths and slow, exploratory melodic electric guitar. It opens wide into a sonic vista that contains a structured harmonic bridge before circling back around to the theme. "Alternator" is the most rockist thing here, with slightly distorted, delayed electric guitar melding a vamp and a riff. The backdrop of synths is panoramic, combing through the chord changes as if it were a bassline. In the undercarriage, another guitar creates its own rhythm à la Krautrock. The nine-plus-minute finale "Cosmic Richard" is worth the price of admission by itself. Its dual chord structure gradually fades in, colored by elliptical leads and the sampled gurgles of continuously running water. It takes on a seeming physical presence as shimmering sheets of synth and echoing guitars are stitched onto its various surfaces; they create labyrinths of depth and textures. The wafting groove is blissed-out -- so much so, one wishes this jam had been the entire album -- and recalls in no small way its obvious influence, Manuel Gottsching's classic "E2E4." Island is more subtle than Early Astral to be sure, but its good vibes combined with more sonic detail and nuanced musical ideas make it equally satisfying. ~ Thom Jurek