Bear Mountain’s new album, Badu: solid seven
author: bodie robinson | a & c writer
Peep these sweet jams, U of R.
Bear Mountain released their latest studio album, Badu, on Sept. 9. For those of you who don’t know, Bear Mountain is an indie/electronic band that originated in Vancouver in 2011. Bear Mountain was originally a solo project of Ian Bevis, the lead singer and bassist of the band. Later, Kyle Statham joined the band as lead guitarist. In 2013, the two released Bear Mountain’s first album, XO. In the meantime, Bear Mountain has added a drummer/keyboardist (Greg Bevis) and a full time creative director (Kenji Rodriguez). Since their first album release, Bear Mountain has toured and played at Lollapalooza, Sasquatch!, and Osheaga.
The band’s Facebook page describes their sound in this way: “The band builds its densely-layered dance music by mixing live and sampled drums, ’80s-sounding keyboards, and Statham’s arpeggiated, delay pedal-drenched guitar lines. Soaring on top of all of this is Ian’s soulful tenor croon, often tackling the hook that, in a house track, would ordinarily be provided by a sample.
This combination of electronic meets electric instrumentation gives Bear Mountain’s largely dance-oriented music an organic, somewhat psychedelic, improvisational quality, as if they were playing and mixing the tracks live.”
You should expect the same style from their latest album, Badu. The album includes ten tracks, with the whole listing clocking in at about 39 minutes. The opening track of the album, entitled “Badu,” is a jazzy and funky instrumental that foreshadows the album as a whole. The song is also a nod back to their first studio album, XO, because over half of that album was instrumental music.
After a few listens of the album, I concluded that Badu is a collection of variations on a theme, which is presented in the opening track. We get a blend of electronic, house, funky guitar, and jazzy brass. The momentum of the album is upbeat and isn’t too far from dance. But where it diverts from a proper dance album is in its more subtle use of sampling and shying away from using raunchy, distorted sounds. Instead, each track flows seamlessly and, yes, even “soulfully” accompanied by Bevis’s vocals. But this seamless flow of each song also gives it a somewhat droning sound from time to time. As I said, the album seems to be a variation on a theme. If you grow tired of the theme, it might become boring for you very quickly.
The peak of the album, for me, comes at track seven with the song “Atembe.” This is one of the slower songs on the track list, in contrast to the rest of the album, which is more dance oriented, but still I consider it the best performance out of all ten tracks. “Atembe” uses a soft and quick keyboard hook, subtle funk guitar, and some sampled percussion – drums and xylophone. This, along with Bevis’s trademark “soulful tenor croon,” makes “Atembe” the most memorable track of the album.
Overall Badu is “not bad.” I say that because I don’t think there are any aspects of the album as a whole that are offensive or cringe worthy. But, on the other hand, it’s also not exactly an impressive or life-changing album. The lyricism is unremarkable. The instrumentals are tight and well produced, but lack variety. The vocals are different from the average male frontman, considering Bevis’s higher singing voice and style. Bear Mountain have certainly found their musical formula, and they’ve stuck to it. Like I said, not bad! I’ll give it a solid seven.