Centralia, a stew of synth swirls and natural instruments, is the fifth effort by Mountains, the Brooklyn drone duo of Koen Holtkamp and Brendan Anderegg. “Sand” opens Centralia with a shimmering quality that conveys a general sense of forward motion, with alternating currents of sonic diffusion and the regaining of focus. Holtkamp and Anderegg create a vibrant, sweeping soundscape that seems to evoke both “nothing” and “everything” in one breath. For the uninitiated, the track may sound like an 11 minute and 15 second-long surround sound test in a movie theater prior to the main feature, but subtleties begin to emerge upon subsequent listens. The final two minutes of the song offer a gentle return from orbit, as cello strings offer a tether back to terra firma.
The constant minimalist hum continues with “Identical Ship,” which simulates a constant flow of the ocean current accompanied by a simple melodic passage in a holding pattern. About midway through the album, the casual listener may begin to reach a saturation point – a general sense of, “Are we there yet?” can settle in with a yearning for drums or bass -- something to pierce the dreamlike trance.
“Propeller” is a 21-minute beast with a nitrous-inspired introduction that gives way to a variety of looping patterns and fuzzy synth sound before finishing with a swell that recalls rocket boosters upon takeoff—sustained for minutes, rather than seconds. It and “Liana” comprise the two live performances on Centralia. The latter is jolted around the 5:50 mark with a beefy guitar chord that arrives like an oasis within a kaleidoscopic swirl.
“Living Lens” offers a graceful close, finishing things off with a passage reminiscent of the call of a steam ship passing into the distance. Centralia is mood music, perhaps enjoyed best as a palate cleanser in a music library shuffle, or in certain settings—with a nice pair of headphones, during a yoga or meditation session, or as a soundtrack to the television during a 3am post-party.