Home Read Albums Of The Week: Buck Meek | Haunted Mountain

Albums Of The Week: Buck Meek | Haunted Mountain

The Big Thief guitarist makes room for love on this sincere, sonically spacious affair.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The followup to his beloved 2021 album Two Saviors, Buck Meek’s third solo release Haunted Mountain is about love… and something else. Something bigger than love. Something that doesn’t challenge love exactly but stands in contrast to it. A soulfulness, or a soul-seeking fullness. Fittingly, perhaps, Meek says that love songs are the hardest to write. “Not breakup songs, but an actual love song written in earnest? That is taboo now,” he says. “Sometimes it can feel like all the great love songs have already been written.”

560 miles from Meek’s hometown of Wimberly, TX, the Franklin Mountains — or more reverently named, Sierras de los Mansos — rise over the tops of the endless acres of pecan trees that surround Sonic Ranch in the border town of Tornillo, where Haunted Mountain was recorded. The songs were written in mountains: By springs in the Serra da Estrela of Portugal, on the submerged volcano of Milos in the Cyclades, Valle Onsernone in the Swiss Alps (where the album’s cover photo was taken), and the Santa Monica range where Buck now calls home — all where his new love was born.

On Haunted Mountain, love often assumes a natural form — crystal ball dew-drops, green rivers and grasses, tears bottled. Sometimes it becomes artificial — mood rings, earrings, a pair of jeans, motorcycles and spacecraft. Sometimes cosmic — “I fell into a black hole with the hot flux of hazel” (from Paradise). Love is a consciousness here, interacting with the lovers, greeting them, watching them sometimes, becoming them sometimes. It extends beyond romance, examining the inexhaustible bond between mother and sun, and asks — is love a form of magic? “When you are in love, it inhabits your environment, animates the inanimate, charging everything around you with a sense of meaning,” he says, “and not just new love; also love of many years.”

Since Buck’s self-titled album, his band has remained consistent — Adam Brisbin (guitar), Austin Vaughn (drums), and Mat Davidson (pedal steel, bass on his first two full-lengths). In the year or so leading up to recording Haunted Mountain, they were joined by Ken Woodward (bass) as well as Meek’s brother Dylan, who joined them for the session on piano and synths. Produced by the band’s own Davidson, Haunted Mountain was recorded and mixed in two weeks by Adrian Olsen, who also performed the sound manipulation via modular synthesizer that can be heard throughout the album.

One intention was to make a hi-fi album that contrasted with the intentionally lo-fi approach of Two Saviors, while preserving the intimacy. Recorded live to two-inch tape, the group played together in one big room, with no headphones. In Davidson’s words, “The music here is an expression of a group. I asked for the job because I felt strongly that we shouldn’t bring in someone from outside the band. Otherwise, the only personal desire I had was that we be able to explore space, that we let the music open up and slow down in contrast to previous records — not in terms of tempo but rather overall movement, information between the beats.” Davidson’s approach was to treat the live room as a sacred space — phones were left on a ledge outside and conversation about the music was reserved for the control room; the live room was only used for playing music.

Meek — also the guitarist in beloved Brooklyn indie-rock outfit Big Thief — believes that all of the great love songs have not been written yet. In between the lines of Haunted Mountain, we hear that love, in every form, is the creation of home, from within — forever leaving one to find another.”