Personnel: Matt Ziolkowski, Andrew Barrett (vocals, guitar); Fred Thomas (vocals, synthesizer, percussion); Ryan Harroun (vocals); Jenny Junior (saxophone, percussion); Jeffrey David Thomas (drums).
Recording information: 11/2014-03/2015.
Photographer: Justine Tobiasz.
Detroit garage psych group Mountains & Rainbows had existed in one form or another for about a decade before the release of their 2016 debut album, Particles, so it's no surprise that it's a sprawling 18-track double LP. That is, it's no surprise to Detroit-area rock fans, who have been witnessing the group's exuberant, show-stealing performances for years. The group certainly surprised John Dwyer while opening for Thee Oh Sees at Detroit bar PJ's Lager House in 2014, and he quickly signed them to his Castle Face label. Mountains & Rainbows are led by songwriter Matt Ziolkowski, longtime drummer and bassist for lo-fi punks Tyvek. While not as distorted and blown-out as that band, they share a similar brand of energy and unpredictability. Ziolkowski's shaky, spirited vocals recall both the Monks' Gary Burger and Jad Fair's Half Japanese, with occasional hints of bravado resembling a low-budget Russell Mael (Sparks). Many of the group's songs maintain a scrappy garage rock bounce, and there are touches of New York Dolls-style glam rock ("Sycamour Tree"), surf (the "Beach Jam" interludes), and even some twangy country ("I'm a Peaceful Man"). The band has plenty of avant-garde tendencies as well, often bringing to mind Michigan experimental legends Destroy All Monsters, and going so far as to title one of the album's odder songs "With Beefheart." The track constantly feels like it's falling apart, then gets consumed by fuzzy delay and sinister laughter, and eventually the tape drops dead off the reel. The album's title track is a repetitive boogie with haunted voices floating throughout the mix, eventually heating up to some faster, more chaotic sections and drowning in echo. "Fancies" hammers on for nearly 11 minutes, surrounding the hypnotic groove with fluttering saxophone, fretboard-damaging guitar scraping, and Ziolkowski's possessed, stammering exclamations. Even during some of the group's more straightforward rock & roll songs, they'll inject some weirdness, such as the spacy, wayward breakdown in the middle of the otherwise anthemic "Dying to Meet You." The group's shorter, more concise numbers, such as the summery "How You Spend Your Time" and the encouraging "Treat Your Mind," still feature enough freaky voices and unconventional guitar sounds to set them apart from the hordes of garage rock revivalists out there. ~ Paul Simpson