The first eight minutes of Secret Mountains’ Kaddish EP are nothing short of breathtaking. You’ll find gorgeous crescendos shimmering on both opening tracks, “Kaddish” and “Gate/Gate/Paragate,” two undeniably Baltimorean songs operating on an EP that plays more like a dream than it does music. Like Beach House and Wye Oak before them, Secret Mountains replicate a peculiar brand of euphoria, one that strikes more closely at the vein of beauty and is in touch with pure, unadulterated splendor. What we have on our hands today is a pretty damn promising debut.
At it’s best, Kaddish is a powerful narcotic; Secret Mountains’ straightforward instrumentation raises the heavens with a blunt echo, their listeners need do little to follow suit. Kaddish’s masterwork, “Gate/Gate/Paragate” resides in this state as a force of nature, it works fundamentally around an earthy chic-beat and a progression rooted in old folk. The notes have a way of testing your confidence: each count becomes a new leap of faith, falling into place like a snowflake on a bed of winter dust.
“I Have Been Awake” is Kaddish’s easy anthem, lyrics somehow mightier than the bony post-primal percussion point up the track’s attention, “I have been awake today. What have I done? What have I done?” It’s about reconciling self-knowledge and human nature, personal right, social wrong, the various cycles of life. Heavy stuff. These themes aren’t merely skimmed throughout the remainder of Kaddish either. In fact, most of the subject matter eagerly sisters with virtuous artistic abstraction. Gladly, and surprisingly, Secret Mountains have found an amiable middle ground between overzealous conceptual wankery and transparent secularism. The polished production reflects a similar position, intuitively revealing their stargazing eye sockets equally as well as their soles, planted comfortably in the soil.
What’s really impressive is that, for a home-cooked gem, Kaddish is sequenced immaculately. Sure, you’ve got the occasional mistake littered about on the flooring (which only adds to how deeply personal the EP is), but for something so homemade to sound this unified is quite simply uncalled for. Each piece moves seamlessly into the next devoid of the slightest friction; Kaddish never loses momentum between songs or within. Never. And that alone is worth being proud of.
Release date: Aug 2009
4. Growing Season
5. I Have Been Awake