Review ·

The Acorn’s Rolf Klausener conducted hours of interviews with his mother before setting off to write an album about her stunning life story. Her name -- Gloria Esperanza Montoya -- roughly means "glory hope mountain" in English. That’s her seductive figure on the album cover, dark tresses obscuring her face, a cigarette held provocatively in hand. Put together, the record’s background might suggest a slab of direct oral history in the vein of the Fiery Furnaces’ Rehearsing My Choir.

But look at that album cover again. Montoya stands amid an impressionistic collage of greenery and -- on the back sleeve -- black, rushing floodwaters. On Glory Hope Mountain, Klausener and his bandmates are as much concerned with the scenery as the specifics of his mother’s biography. That universal perspective, combined with deft lyricism and the band’s understated musicality, creates an album-length journey that welcomes participants rather than excludes.

Sounds and images of Montoya’s native Honduras flash throughout Glory Hope, especially its first half. In retelling his mother’s premature birth on “Hold Your Breath,” Klausener sets her struggle for life against the geography of her homeland -- rivers and valleys, dirt roads and farmhouses, and “the rhythm of the landscape that is breathing.” The band seethes in time, patiently building from spare piano chords to a cathartic crest six minutes later. “Flood Pt.1” is the first of several tracks to incorporate a multipronged percussive attack, with communal handclaps, shakers, and thunderous toms pounding in concert. “Glory” takes those same clattering rhythms and strips them of their bombast, lending its sunrise balladry a subtle, ever-shifting heartbeat. It’s the record’s most disarming track, and ends with what seems like the perfect summation of Montoya’s outlook: “I’ve known glory all my life.”

And as for Montoya herself? Her recorded voice only appears briefly on the instrumental interlude “Sister Margaret.” She recounts unexpectedly meeting an old friend from Honduras after having fled to Canada. Montoya is laughing as she speaks, reliving the joy of that chance encounter decades later. It’s that sense of spirit and discovery that colors Glory Hope Mountain, not so much its specific plot points. Like any story worth telling, this album is about more than just the events that it recounts. Heavy sentiment might clog its progress at times (the closing track lays it on a bit thick), but Glory Hope looks to be an excellent launching pad for further explorations by the Acorn.

 

***

Band: http://www.theacorn.ca

Label: http://paperbagrecords.com

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/theacorn

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This is a great up and coming Canadian band. If you like Beirut or Iron & Wine check out this album.

Lid

Glory Hope Mountain is a wonderful concept. I love it. Its easy accessibilty and bittersweet mood are masterfully blended by Klausener in a cinematic effect celebrating a proud life, filled with satisfaction and high spirituality. This is not your "run of the mill", Utopian, escapist, Emo slime, but a serious multi-talented artistic effort. Its pupose is ultimately a positive and uplifting listening experience. G.H.M. leaves me, at once, with a longing contentment for the past while being safely assured of hope for tomorrow.
I'll be seeing The Acorn perform live in Chicago in a supporting role, as I wait for headliner, Grand Archives. Both acts have brand new LP releases in the U.S. It remains to be seen, who will actually be "supporting" whom, but if The Acorn can recreate their special sonic feeling of G.H.M. on stage, then they should "steal the show"!

Playback

Stunning in concept and in output. I can't think of a more emotion provoking album in my possession.

Well put by the reviewer, though I disagree that the album is sometimes too heavy on sentiment (except perhaps the last track, as you say). In fact, many songs build to an emotional climax, but then pull in the reins just when you're wanting more (see "Low Gravity," for example).

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