Glory Hope Mountain

November 25th, 2007

Glory Hope Mountain

The Acorn
Paper Bag Records (2007)

I don’t live in Montreal anymore, however I am continually curious as to what’s happening there. I don’t listen to much Canadian music form day to day either, its not all-around me as it used to be, but I write about it. And this removal from the context in which a lot of the music I write about, is coming from, has really pushed me to try to imagine these albums magically popping up out of nowhere, as opposed to being predicted, anticipated or appearing as the undeniable next-step in an artists’ career. Now, this is already starting to sound like the self-indulgent ramblings of an mp3 blogger, unfortunately it only gets worse.

The Acorn’s Glory Hope Mountain is an album that confidently and maturely removes itself from much of its inevitable contexts, which might hold back the magic within it; Montreal/Ottawa, indie-folk, related music or close friends’ bands that create unnecessary associations. And thus, this is a truly important album to any music fan, and not just to those of us who cling onto the snowy needles of broken phonographs, which sew the streets of Montreal on some lonely nights.

I love The Acorn. I always have. I’ve always considered their four-song EP Blankets! to be one of the most beautifully concise musical statements in Montreal-related indie music since the ‘90s. And Tin Fist kept me content while I eagerly waited for them to release something longer, more substantial. And it’s finally arrived, Glory Hope Mountain is serious substance! The back-story alone is enough to bring tears to your eyes, and when you hear the music blossoming with more ideas then you can catch with a shark net, it all comes together.

An artful and intimate project that retells the childhood stories of singer Rolf Klausener’s mother Gloria Esperanza Montoya, growing up in Honduras. This concept album combines the indie-folk sound that The Acorn is known for and the musical folk traditions of the Garifuna and Miskito people of Honduras and Nicaragua, which Klausener researched. The lyrics cover highly personal stories of the death of Montoya’s own mother during childbirth, a near-escape from a flash flood and the migration to a new life in Canada.

Klausener‘s voice deeply croons like Eric Bachmann of the Crooked Fingers on “Glory” when he repeats, with subtle backing harmony, “I’ve know glory all my life”. He’s channeling the unheard words of an incredible woman looking back, while making a simple pun on her translated Spanish name, which gives the album it’s title. This delicate weaving of the words of a mother, spoken and sung by her son, perhaps blurs the lines between biography and autobiography, especially when it is set to the music of two different cultures.

I must admit that when I listened to “Flood Pt. 1” for the first time, it sounded like an Akron/Family cop-out (group growling, tribal rhythmic cacophony, a Afro-jazz barrage of staccato electric guitar notes) but the song moves forward in a direction that only The Acorn could take. From the bridge, Klausener and company throw hints back at doubtful listeners, that this is not a band searching for masks to hide behind, but a band who has a signature, and even if they digress for the sake of experimentation, they are loyal. Hence, the revitalizing beauty of Glory Hope Mountain is that it showcases a band who had the courage to take on the risk of bending away from their woodsy folk-origins, when their definable qualities were still at stake. In doing so, I think they’ve successfully proved their comfortability with balancing the tightrope jeopardy of the concept album and the certainty of their musical strengths.

So finally, I take back my comment about The Acorn removing themselves from their contexts. They’ve clearly grown into this realization of their sound, and it fits them well. I hope they wear it for a long time. In fact, sometimes context can move backwards in time. When a band releases an incredible testament of work which defines their place in a scene, such as this hectic Canadian playground of indie-music, it can recontextualize their previous releases as appropriate steps to finding a strong enough landing. I don’t even feel comfortable using the word “potential” here. The Acorn had it, now they’ve got momentum.

ps: Ethan, if you could track down some mp3s and post them, that’d be really nice.

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