Heimlich Maneuver

By Ed Chamberlin

During the 70s prog rock gradually found itself stubbornly striving for higher levels of technical, conceptual and compositional complexity to the point where it arguably buckled under the weight of its own pomposity, thus giving rise to the explosions (in popularity at least) of punk, new wave and no wave. In the admittedly short history of rock'n'roll, the emergence of these harsh, anti-aesthetic forms may have constituted the most comprehensive overhaul of 'what was in' we have yet seen.

In the same way, as we approached the 21st century electronic music reached a similar impasse with the likes of Autechre, Aphex Twin and Mu-ziq creating music of such fiendish, convulsing complexity itself that, well, something had to give. It is for this reason that Boards Of Canada hold such a respected place in many people's hearts. Sure they were melodic, but no more so than vintage Aphex or 808 State for that matter. The complexity was there too, but it was so well concealed that a new kind of appreciation of electronic music was possible: gone was the vague self-congratulation and overt pomposity of old, and in came a higher appreciation of balance and subtlety. Another overhaul...

From here electronica splintered slightly with outfits now appearing to embrace the clinical, and head-spinning, complexity of old, with added excitement (Chris Clark?), or full-blown naiveté à la Múm, Lineland and, latterly, the aforementioned Boards.

But some groups have remained in no-man's land, stuck in between both philosophies and creating something different altogether. Such bands as Arovane, Icarus and Einóma have maintained the cold – and subsequently delicious – detachment of older electronic forms, while turning the melody and exhilaration up to full. Everest falls neatly into this category with them. A Swiss duo whose name, possibly referencing their location in the Alps (and yes, I know Mount Everest is Himalayan) is mighty apt. There is something incomprehensibly huge and unknowable about the music, yet it retains an austere natural beauty comparable to that of viewing epic mountain landscapes.

Everest tread much the same jagged fields of Arovane especially. And this is possibly their downfall. It is too similar to Arovane's early work, especially Atol Scrap. Uwe Zahn has proved himself to be a master of creating emotionally wrought and crushingly lonely music from fairly simple compositions, and Everest are aiming for exactly the same target. While they hit more often than they miss, music like theirs must maintain a constant emotional bond with the listener, and before long, this has disintegrated from a majestic physical object into simply a bunch of synths and beats. They may still reach their summit yet.
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