Speck Mountain are a psychedelic rock band from the USA and have just released their third album Badwater two weeks ago. If I were to give it a specific review tag I would call its spaciously unrushed.
Badwater is an album that is comfortable with letting each instrument breathe. The percussion on each track is crystal clear to the point where each cymbal tap can be heard. The guitar has that shimmering effect and the vocals have a deep, laid back lazy breeze tonal quality that will either make you slump back and chill out or make you indifferent to what’s coming at you. “Caught Up” certainly doesn’t sound fraught or dramatic and “Flares” only add some warm keyboard synths as things start to warm up although the later track is much more catchier. “Slow So Long” breaks things down to a more quieter darkened state and its here where all the elements of the band come together better. Low key organs and guitar plucks that are allowed to echo into submission give a smokey afternoon feel. Suddenly the vocals fit perfectly and the production makes perfect sense. It’s a real stand out for the album.
“Coldpoint” goes out of its way to jar you with its abstract drum patterns initially before coming together in a hazy instrumental. The guitar work is excellent as the mellowness gradually seeps into you and calms you down. It’s when things start to want to become more formative that the elements again don’t quite hold together as well. Title track “Badwater” is at odds with itself where the drums are both harsh (snares) and subtle (cymbals) but the guitar is so glistening in juiciness you want to yum it up. It just doesn’t quite fall perfectly into either category and whilst I can appreciate that actually, that’s quite a unique trait, I struggled to work a way into it until the track gets more populated. “Young Eyes” pulls back to the sombre damp side of Speck Mountain’s music and things click again.
Almost as if someone noticed the production of the percussion and bass weren’t quite fitting the rest of the music “Live It Down” and the following two tracks suddenly sounds utterly different. The percussion is brought right forward to the front of the mix and everything is made more sparse. The vocals feel more alive and the track absolutely works. It’s the best track on the album and stands tall above everything else present. “No Words” follows it up has more guitar in the mix and is like a party comedown wrapped in yesterdays beer bottles. It has that slow motion vibe down to a tee. The closing track is the six and half minute “Watch The Storm” with is a hazy rock chillout with a great organ bridge and some soul to it.
Badwater is a strange beast. Awkwardly straddling itself in production choices, it’s at odds with itself and where there’s little in the way of immediate hooks, the production choices seem all the more visible because its what holds this type of music together. The feel of the final three tracks is completely different and suddenly the album improves leaps and bounds but when the music goes out of its way to feel indifferent and chugging, I struggle to feel anything but indifferent about it too.