"Let's make a song on the eight-track tonight," sing Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn and Ginger Brooks Takahashi on "Oh! September," the final song on Songs from the Black Mountain Music Project. It's a lyric that makes perfect sense, considering their friendship and the circumstances surrounding this album: the pair decided to hole up in a secluded house in the Blue Ridge Mountains for a month and write and record songs about their experience. Using a Tascam four-track and mini-disc recorder, along with a motley array of instruments including steel drum, accordion, zither, and banjo, they made the album into a working holiday. The emphasis is on "holiday" instead of work, though; the chirping birds, lonesome train whistles, and buzzing insects that pop up throughout Songs from the Black Mountain Music Project make it feel like a collection of audio postcards from Takahashi and Mirah's vacation. Not surprisingly, the album has more than a little in common with Mirah's You Think It's Like This But Really It's Like This and Advisory Committee, seamlessly fusing spirituality, sensuality, and nature into beautifully vulnerable, confessional music, but Songs from the Black Mountain Music Project is on a smaller scale. While the album features 18 tracks, only ten of them are full-fledged songs; the rest are interludes spanning guitar snippets, distorted tape loops, music box miniatures, and found sounds that add a more impressionistic feel. As usual, Mirah's voice is gorgeous on showcases like the slightly spooky "Life You Love," which, with its pounding drums and shivery zithers, reaffirms that she has a talent for drama that is sorely lacking in most indie pop. "While We Have the Sun" is another standout, a sweetly reassuring song about living in the moment that reflects the increasingly spiritual tenor of her songwriting. Takahashi's presence also makes itself felt throughout Songs from the Black Mountain Music Project, particularly on the gorgeous "Pure," which loops buzzing insects behind her mellow, womanly voice, offering a nice foil to the bright girlishness of Mirah's singing. They exploit the contrast in their voices on "Rock of Ages," their close harmonies complementing each other perfectly. The aforementioned "Oh! September," with its off-kilter brass and loose-limbed drumming, might technically be one of the weakest songs here, but it's also one of the most charming. Instrumentals like "The Party" are also charming, with a playful prickliness that recalls some of the instrumental interludes on Lisa Germano's albums, as well as the surreally romantic compositions of Yann Tiersen. Songs from the Black Mountain Music Project may have started out as an experiment, but its best moments transcend its origins.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares