Language of Shapes inhabit a musical world all their own. Not that they don’t allow certain musical influences to seep into that world and show themselves now and then, but for the most part LoS score their wonderful little universe all their own. Their self-titled debut from 2012 showed a band brimming and bursting with musical ideas and chops. They create this musical landscape with mandolin(and mandolin-like stringed instruments), bass, and djembe. The narration to their stories is done with Tristram Burden’s rich vocals, accompanied by J.E. Seuk’s ethereal harmonizing. All of these elements together create the Language of Shapes’ universe. It’s at times dark, foreboding, and melancholy. It’s also hopeful and filled with light. Stories around the campfire after a great sadness. Post-apocalyptic folk tunes that are psychedelic in that they remove you from where you are at the moment you listen. They take you to another world without the need of any hallucinogenics.
LoS disappeared into their fortress of solitude for a few months and created the follow-up to their ambitious debut. Mother Mountain doesn’t stray too far from the formula they had written in 2012. More than anything, they have honed in on those musical truths and aural secrets contained on their debut and, to my ears, have perfected them. Mother Mountain is a new journey into the world of Language of Shapes, and it’s an epic journey.
“Phosphor Burn” opens the album cautiously and lamenting dark times before the percussion rolls in and the song gets moving. Flute accompanies the mandolin giving the track a movement, like running down a muddy trail through a grey forest. Burden’s vocals linger in the air thanks to some amazing reverb. He seems to center the song as it moves and kicks and breathes all around him. “Stitches” is post-punk neo-futuristic folk pop. Say that five times fast. This is what I imagine playing through space as the last survivors attempt to make their way to a new world. A new universe. It’s a jagged, bruised, survival theme. It’s great stuff.
There are a couple of epic tracks on Mother Mountain as well. “The Sleeping Eye” is eight minutes of a mad, kinetic dance around the burning embers some distant, somber light. It feels like a search(both physical and metaphysical) for meaning in what may seem to be meaningless. Languages of Shapes do this well. Epic feel and meaning in every pluck of the strings, every percussive hit, and every lyrical line that leaves the lips. And at almost nine minutes, album closer “The Fist and the Butterfly” sounds both modern and ancient. It’s as light as a pop song and as heavy as the Dead Sea Scrolls. There’s a great movement to this track that keeps you enthralled throughout it’s epic length. And in-between these great songs, are more great songs. “Thunderkryst” is sweet and melodious, carrying Burden’s heavy lyrics and vocals with ease. “Into The Veil” and “Liquid Dream” sound like songs Echo and the Bunnymen could’ve pulled off beautifully back in 1984. Rich and melancholy while not bringing you down. That’s the mark of real songsmiths.
Language of Shapes’ Mother Mountain is complex, dense, and modern without falling for any sort of modern schticks or trends. It’s a beautiful record rich in story and epic in ideas. It’s earthy, organic, honest, and damn good.