NOT SINCE Sigur Rós landed in 1997 with their maiden release ‘Von’, has a debut album created such an anthemic buzz that every shard of the body quakes in sorrow, ectascy and electricity. And within minutes of London trio Mt Wolf’s ‘Aetherlight’ the very nature of the listener’s spirituality and existence is bought to question.
This album can only be described as a triumph. Every moment within it breeds new experiences and emotion-shuddering wonderment, leaving you wishing that first listen could last forever. It’s well documented that this album took a whole year to complete. But it’s a testament to the endevour of the band and producer Ken Thomas, brains behind the aforementioned Icelandic giants, M83 and Daughter, that ‘Aetherlight’ creates behemoth-like masterpieces, so detailed but elementary.
‘Heavenbounnd’ is the album’s lead single and set ‘Aetherlight’ on its way. The thundering, massive composition that evokes nostalgic glances to the angelic tones of Dry the River, with dark synthetic murmurs through the bass, the only thing that contaminates the celestial shine is it warped electronics. ‘Soteria’ – which paints Sebastian Fox ‘Bassi’s vocals between the tremoring Justin Vernon and Jack Steadman – starts humbly enough, but the eruption of sound and colour, which melts the darkness created through its lyrics, only adds to Mt Wolf’s empowering aura.
You could be forgiven for thinking ‘Aetherlight’ was born in a Nordic state as opposed to the Big Smoke. Its craft of combining film score strings and classical arrangements to the hum of electronics and guitar gives this impression. ‘Dorji’ could easily be a track conjured by Agnes Obel or the White Album and as for the titanic ‘Starliner II’ – an eight-minute masterclass in the realms of pulsating prog, with hints of eighties electro – it’s more likely to have been a surplus track by Cliff Martinez and his score of ‘Drive’.
But this is the thing. Despite spending a year crafting ‘Aetherlight’, truly honing their own sound, Mt Wolf still haven’t found the ability to shock. ‘Bohemia’ is a drastic change to the all-conquering sounds around it. A traditional folk song, that arouses the senses to sweeping landscapes and dramatic mountains, it once again allows Bassi’s vocals to shine.
During the album’s fourth song ‘Hamburg’ it hit me. Like a smack of the good stuff that invigorates the body when at its weakest, this is an album to bring warmth in the cold.
Mt Wolf are now at the top of their mountain. And my only disappointment with ‘Aetherlight’ is it had to end.
Words by Clive Hammond