Speck Mountain

Summer Above

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Speck Mountain's debut batch of hazy psych pop calls to mind several mainstays of the psychedelic genre, from Mazzy Star (to whom the band is frequently -- although not unreasonably -- linked) to a very mind-addled Spacemen 3. Replete with organ drones and leisurely plucked guitar, Summer Above brews up something appropriately lush and expansive, but the record's biggest asset isn't its similarity to those psychedelic predecessors. It's the emphasis on space. Songs are given room to breathe, to slowly morph and echo inside the area that's been carved for them. Reverb functions like its own instrument here, coating Marie-Claire Balabanian's voice with eerie beauty and allowing Karl Briedrick's chiming guitar to drift lazily into the ether.

As chord progressions dissolve into lullabies, and slow waltz ballads take their cues from a crisp tambourine, perhaps it's hard not to revisit the aforementioned similarities to Mazzy Star, who created a similarly appealing wash of sound one decade prior. But while Hope Sandoval's heavy-lidded vocals seemed to emanate from someplace between the bedroom and the opium den, Balabanian's voice is more lucid and focused. Even when she does dip her toes into some truly trippy water, as she does in the gorgeous "Fjord Song," her voice maintains a sense of innocence and clarity that keeps the song from sinking below those druggy depths. Speck Mountain traffics in a genre that is not always rife with clear-headed (or sober) bands, but Summer Above is nevertheless conscious, smart, and -- in short -- very promising.

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