Mountainface : Dead Lake EP20.04.2018
Mountainface's first EP, Let's Play, was startling for its pure verve - alt. folk played with the intensity and fire of raw bluegrass. Two years on the Chester trio have recorded a follow up at Penylan Studios, Meifod that keeps the fervour of their debut and adds more emotional texture and soul to their sound.
There is a real sophistication in these compositions - teasing the boundary of progressive folk-rock at times - but the heart in the performances is always there to bind the listener to them. Dead Lake opens with the soaring and sweeping Native Dust - and then beguiles through four more elegant tracks.
The band cite their influences as including Punch Brothers, Joanna Newsom, John Martyn and Richard Thompson; you might find something of early Deacon Blue in how it all hangs together, not least because of the soulful lead vocals. BBC Radio Wales' Adam Walton has rhapsodically described David Weir's singing as 'like moonlight dancing off the top of trees', and the second track here, Presque Vu, demonstrates the new emotive depth Weir has found - an impression immediately confirmed by the plaintive opening of Mirror, before it comes to life with a shuffling drum rhythm and dancing banjo.
Pariah and The Chaser conclude the quick rolling reverie. The latter is a positive close - a poignant, hopeful song of love and memory, the words like couplets of intermittently telegrammed poetry.
This is an accomplished EP. If there was a touch of euphoria around the releases' packed launch event, held at Telford's Warehouse in their hometown of Chester, it should come as no surprise - music like this is too clever, energised and wholehearted not to have an impact. Dead Lake is a triumphant follow up to the promise of Let's Play.