Speaking in the broadest possible terms — and these are ludicrously broad, my friend; vast, unfairly sweeping categories being used to make a generalization that would likely seem an embarrassing hack job to even the most rudimentary and banal of music critics, such as the ones in USA Today — electronic music seems to come in one of two sweeping forms: there is the kind that is wont to saturate and blanket everything around it, painting the room a different shade while leaving the furnishings intact, and there is the kind that creates its own room, which uses the seemingly limitless potential of electronic instrumentation to create soundscapes that are varied and all-encompassing. The former is background music, a rich yet unobtrusive soundtrack to a party or a high or a graphic design project. The latter is as capable of dominating the consciousness as rap or rock and roll. Neither are wrong, per se, nor is one superior to the other; this decision, like all decisions regarding art, is riddled through and through with subjectivity and personal preference. To those whose inclinations fall upon the saturation end of the spectrum, Michna has given Moving Mountains.
There is no denying that Michna finds an interesting sound for all of Moving Mountains. The problem — or, I suppose, the boon — with said sounds is that once he has found a groove, he falls into it for the vast majority of the track. The sounds and textures worked with are more than their fair share of arresting, and his talent is evident; the issue lies in the composition’s somewhat static nature. They tend to follow a template of gradual escalation to a plateau before plummeting swiftly out of existence and rising from the depths again; all of the songs follow this same life-cycle, though they vary greatly on the severity and length of their fall and the speed and ferocity — never too much ferocity, mind you — with which they return.
Ironically, it is the most homogenous track that could in the end lead the most interesting of lives. Opener “Titanium Glaciers” is camp horror, death blunt acid rap in the same vein as Flatbush Zombies with a distinct hint of RZA and mid- to late ’90s New York City for good measure; or at least it would be if it had a rapper on top of it. God willing, someone will mount and destroy this well-crafted beat soon, or already has, and the cut’s dark timbre cadaver shuffle and eerie, long black hallway fall away will be put to more effective use then they are as is.
It is a dramatic shift from “Glaciers” to “Wanted Exotic,” Moving Mountain’s other standout. Far from shuffling or clicking, “Exotic” slinks and bounces, the ever-present electronic dance music creep seeping in. Some of Michna’s most interesting sounds are located here, including one which sounds like a Parisian ambulance siren on psilocin and another that perfectly imitates the sound of a phone vibrating on a desk — guess how many times I checked my phone? — both of which join catchy synth riffs in an elastic display of refined exuberance that could easily pass for a missing track from Architecture in Helsinki‘s In Case We Die.
Both “Through the City On The Edge Of Forever” and “The Tabernacle At Pendrell Vale” subscribe wholeheartedly to the saturation school of electronic music, and both are near textbook examples of the form. Of the two, “City” is the more upbeat and intrusive, an airy synth-driven piece whose melodic hooks are sharp. Much as how “Through The City On The Edge Of Forever” glides in on the dying breaths of ” Wanted Exotic,” closer “Tabernacle” slides into being after its predecessor like a slowly rising tide of syrup, a gentle wave of a song whose notes fall like rain on a Japanese garden. So ethereal is the world that Michna creates here that he is content to let it slide into just that, rain, and the listener loses almost nothing for the excision, something that can either be seen as demonstrative of the music’s lack of presence — one could buy a sounds of nature CD for the same effect — or as a testament to Michna’s ability to mold landscapes from mere vapor.
Moving Mountains is background music, and well crafted background music at that. Some may enjoy its quiet nature and penchant for facilitation, either as creative ambience or conversation filler; for others, they will desire more, and lament the fact that while Michna may fill a space here, he fails to truly create one.
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