E*Rock (né Eric Mast) takes his time. Often three year gaps mark his LPs proper, his White Rainbow video stretched out some 45-odd minutes of pure image fuckery (of the best kind), and previous releases are marked by lengthy tracklistings and homegrown art both on the cover and in the sleeve. Now that Audio Dregs seems to be at that time of the half-decade, his new album The Clock & The Mountain is nigh for proper release and proves that benefits of waiting. Now with a new approach to sound but the same spirit of inventiveness, E*Rock reaffirms his musical status.
Mast’s music to date, save for previous LP Conscious, has been infuriating to collect. His back catalogue is full of limited editions, items with intriguing names, and tons of out of print notices – not that previous efforts have much bearing on appreciating The Clock & The Mountain, but his musical history is difficult to readily absorb. Despite this trait, it seems that the album currently at hand is a fine place to begin or continue with a sound that is distinct and a clear notion of what direction to go. Almost inevitably it must be mentioned that Mast’s brother is E*Vax of Ratatat fame, but R*Rock’s music only shares similarities with mere traces of genre typification for those of you who tag things in iTunes “Electronic.” Stylistically the sound is vaguely electro-house, but musically it’s a beast unto itself rooted in the organic process of building a track, and ultimately comes off as a celebration of the process as the end result. 'Chrome Plates' bristles with distorted interjections and tight programming while 'Higher Hats' channels ragas and Clara Rockmore before throwing in a quantized head nodding beat and wandering off on a path that is far too short given the number of ideas that have yet to spawn before the switch over. 'A Dangerous Abstraction' and 'False Fortress' contribute a rock sensibility and offer up some of the album’s most unexpected results – a feat in its own given how varied things are. 'A Long Narrow Corridor' lurches with its simple ostinato and ‘80s kick while “Java”’s Major Lazer-meets-YACHT groove somehow temporally distorts 3’08” into 6’00”, both tracks serving as the sort of snares that ought be tread lightly upon. For all the trouble created by these tracks, they do serve some purpose as needed transitions, breaks, and further evidence of E*Rock’s ability to craft interesting textures, but at 2’45” apiece the value of truncation would have made these standouts for their differences.
This is the sort of album to listen to at any time. Balancing the dance ready beats, organic flow of the developing song, and an ear as keen for timing and balance (for the most part) as his eye is for visual candy, E*Rock once again proves that his multidisciplinary nature only continues to yield benefits. If Hot Rats was a movie for your ears, The Clock & The Mountain is a soundtrack for your electronic impulse. Only weighed down by slight excess and a couple tracks that deserve longer treatment ('Hardcastle' needed a B section, in my opinion, and 'Black Iron Prison' seems like the sort of five plus minute banger that we could all need right now if it wasn’t 2’25”), this is the sort of album that helps change the daily routine and the mundane sameness of electronic. I can only commend E*Rock on his steadfastness and success.