Mountains of Jura - Mountains of Jura (Album Review)


Never judge a book by its cover unless it's not a book but the second self-titled album from Californian hypnotists-cum-psychedelic-indie rockers Mountains of Jura. The cover art of their latest release is a brilliantly detailed drawing of a lynx by Paula Spence. This image perfectly depicts the group's roaming, confident, and majestic sound. Composed of guitarist and vocalist Daniel Cleland, bassist Jason Damiano, and drummer Greg Paxton, Mountains of Jura blend energetically dynamic rock atmospheres with songwriting steeped in folk traditions. Cleland's vocals are haunting across the record, connecting with the audience with lingering notes that stretch towards the astral plane and mirror the instruments' far-out ambitions.  

Throughout the album, the group test the seams of their craft. The album opener "Old Leon" and "I Am Not A Program Parts 5&6"  take sweeping turns towards spacial progressive rock, sounding more orchestral than indie. This zealous approach can inspire the listener into a sense of mystic sagacity that flavours the banality of the everyday. However, as environmentally pleasing as these cuts are, their senses are somewhat shrouded by their intentional veil of ambiguity. It's impossible to be in space and on Earth simultaneously. 

When the songs do become more direct in their intentions, like the sedated "Lost Days", which portrays an unstable narrator ("I thought I found my home"), or the possible album highlight, "The Cave", with its catchy refrain of "This little light of mine..." describing a hopeful narrator, it's more memorable. 

Elsewhere, the dreamy instrumentals "Reverse Creek" and "Ocelot Path" drift by with a curiously detached indifference, neither too fast nor too slow, too musical nor too bland. "Oracle", a 9-minute epic and sprawling piece closes the album with highly dramatic passages of what can only be described as operatic shoegaze; flavourism if not jarring. "Let your dreams go..." sings Cleland, a call to leave your baggage behind as you move into the future unfettered by your past expectations.  

Mountains of Jura's second album is a searching collection of heavy-headed ambient rock driven by inquisitive songwriting and production. The band's desire to explore doesn't yield aimless experiments, but focused songs that never depend on their sonic impressiveness, of which they have plenty.