Mountains: Brendon Anderegg tells how musical geography is created

In the band Mountains, Brendon Anderegg (left) and Koen Holtkamp make music that builds slowly. Anderegg says, initially, it was only people into atmospheric music that listened, but, now, all sorts of people are checking it out.

In the band Mountains, Brendon Anderegg (left) and Koen Holtkamp make music that builds slowly. Anderegg says, initially, it was only people into atmospheric music that listened, but, now, all sorts of people are checking it out.

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The music of Mountains builds like the real mountains — slow and sure and beautiful. The players are going for something subtle and majestic. There won’t be a point where the players stop to shout out “How you doin’, Knoxviiiiiilllllle?”

The band’s new album, “Centralia,” is made up of mostly long pieces. The track “Propeller” clocks in at over 20 minutes. Brendon Anderegg, half of the duo, says that the songs are worked out both in advance and are created on stage.

“There’s two processes. One is just to come up with material to play live (“live,” but sometimes in private). We’ll improvise and figure out a tuning that we like and start figuring out stuff that works in that tuning, sounds that work together. We’ll layer and layer stuff and see what works and doesn’t. We’ll combine notes that all sound good and also will able to change things where something seems like it’s missing. It becomes a real technical puzzle ...”

After that has come together Anderegg and musical partner Koen Holtkamp work on textures and composition.

“Then we’ll perform a piece live a lot and then take a version we really like as a basis for adding something to it for the context of an album.”

Two songs on the new album were created in live performances and then augmented with new sounds later. Other songs were created by Anderegg and Holtkamp sending music files back and forth to each other and each adding and eliminating things before meeting to compile their ideas.

“It’s always a fine line between doing too much and not doing enough,” says Anderegg. “We want it to be listenable and not too chaotic, but we don’t want it to be too simple. ... It’s hard for us to make shorter pieces, because it takes a long time to feel like it’s actually becoming something. And once something’s in there it’s not always possible to get it out!”

The duo let things sit for a while and then tinker for a long time, adding instruments, tweaking sounds, taking things out. The changes finally become minor ones.

“At some point it gets to the point where what you change isn’t really going to make much of a difference. It’s then we sort of know to let it go and move on to something else.”

He says the finger-picked guitar piece “Identical Ship” on the new album began as a 23-minute work.

“We only ended up using three minutes of it! We worked on the whole thing, but just said, ‘Oh, this is too long!’”

He says people assume the name for “Centralia” refers to the condemned town in Pennsylvania, but that isn’t true.

“We just knew there were towns in almost every state called ‘Centralia.’ We were just thinking of it as a place for music to inhabit.”

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Mountains

With: Strobing Vapor, VN TRBL

When: 10 p.m. Saturday

Where: Pilot Light, 106. E. Jackson Ave.

Admission: $6

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