Post Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:26 am

South Mountain Lights

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South Mountain Lights was born in the Arizona desert in late 2004; a trio with a common goal of creating music that was equal parts heavy and delicate, graceful and dense, immediate and deep. Initial songwriting efforts yielded creations with a dynamic balance not unlike lulling ocean waves crashing violently on a rocky seashore; inspiring the band’s original name, Pacific. As the music developed, the group settled on a moniker that was a reflection of their Phoenix connection as well as their lustrous sound. Elements of Laughing-Stock-era Talk Talk, Bloc Party and Dif Juz all found their way into South Mountain Lights’ music, as well as crunchy Zeppelin-inspired riffs, Radiohead-influenced experimentalism and heavy dub stylings; bound together by drummer Jason Farrell’s tight, Stewart Copelandesque intensity. Insistent on evolving musically, the band was already writing new material and focusing on their musical growth as their self-titled album was released in 2005.

Within a year of their debut, South Mountain Lights reconvened in a scorpion-infested Phoenix basement to begin work on their sophomore effort. The trio determined that this album would have more of a raw, live, rock-oriented sound than its predecessor. To this end, carpet padding was duct taped to the walls, old mattresses were positioned between amps, and all initial guitar, bass and drum tracks were recorded simultaneously. On this foundation, Guitarist Rick Heins (who is equally at home channeling Nick Drake, Bill Frisell, David Gilmour and Jonny Greenwood) constructed dense layers of sonic noise that at times melt into graceful flamenco-inspired shapes. Adam Crofts’ driving, melodic bass lines pulsate throughout the album, drawing rhythmic inspiration from Bloc Party, New Order’s Peter Hook and Simon Gallup of The Cure. While Jason Farrell’s thunderous tone and technique show him to be a worthy disciple of the John Bonham legacy, he often gives the impression of a jazz player trapped in the body of a rock drummer. Farrell’s polyrhythmic cymbal patterns on “For All I Care” recall the deft precision of Elvin Jones before reaching a ferocious crescendo of an overdriven steam locomotive about to fly off the tracks. While the second disc casually hints at the heavy-sad-beautiful mood of the band’s first album, it is essentially a showcase for the possibilities of a cohesive rock trio at their finest.

As the second album was near completion, bassist Adam Crofts was pulled in a new career direction and made plans to move with his family to Idaho. Wholly satisfied with the new songs and with heavy hearts at the impending end of an incredible musical partnership, the band christened their new effort “The Last Word”, played a CD release / farewell concert at Modified Arts in Phoenix and called it a day. Yet even while the songs for “The Last Word” were being polished and refined, South Mountain Lights had begun experimenting with what was to become the new direction of the band: instrumental improvisation. For one of the trio’s final shows, it was decided that there would be no set list and no new album songs; the evening’s music was dictated instead by a plug-in-and-follow-the-mood approach. The result was memorably powerful; yet fleeting (the performance was unfortunately not recorded). For Adam, Rick and Jason the atmosphere was one of palpable excitement for the possibilities of this new format, yet a knowing sadness prevailed that the new direction would not come to fruition at that time.

South Mountain Lights Version 2
In the following years, Jason practiced guitar and worked on his MBA, Adam taught Spanish and played several Jazz gigs, and Rick wrote a solo album and became an in-demand axeman for a number of noteworthy Phoenix groups. In August 2011 the timing was right for South Mountain Lights to be reborn. After 4 years of not playing together, the trio hit the stage with no rehearsal and let the music dictate its own course. The 1,483 day hiatus had done nothing to destroy the band's momentum. Version 2 of SML maintains all the dynamic pendulum-shifts, dark intensity and tight musicianship of their earlier work, while adding the element of spontaneous creation into the mix.

While South Mountain Lights remains a part-time project for all three musicians, the trio rises like a phoenix from the ashes to re-invent themselves every time they step on stage, or convene in the studio to throw sonic paint at a blank canvas.


Last bumped by Anonymous on Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:26 am.