Mount Shrine – Winter Restlessness

Cryo Chamber, 2018

Sometimes, predictability is a good thing.

I’m all for experimentation and new adventures, but in this hectic world, there are moments when it’s best to lean on something familiar. Not everything is intended to expand your mind and life experience, and not everything has to break new ground to have merit. You know that favorite restaurant you frequent? That comfortable pair of shoes? The person you might share your life with? That’s the point I’m reinforcing.

With this in mind, that’s not to imply that Winter Restlessness by Mount Shrine is going to be your new best friend. However, its strength lies in its familiarity; the ease with which it sockets itself into your consciousness, the sense of recalled nostalgia, the consistency of its temperament. Mount Shrine is a Brazilian project which has released several albums of gray-tinted slow-motion nature-themed ambient, but that was enough to capture the attention of Cryo Chamber.

Winter Restlessness haunts a realm somewhere between Kave’s Dismal Radiance, Kammarheit’s ghost-steeped landscapes, and Sleep Research Facility’s arctic epic Deep Frieze. However, Mount Shrine has none of the desolation of Kave, the sepulchral ruinous reflection of Kammarheit, nor the density of SRF. The first few moments of the first track, “Winter Restlessness,” provides an exacting example of what the album is: a bed of analog loops merged with a gentle river of assorted static and distant field-recorded sources like rain and thunder. The track winds its way languorously through drifting haze, with a variety of samples and loops waking and slumbering with muted grace. At ten minutes long, the track feels shorter, due to the singular mood and Mount Shrine’s firm grasp of gradual evolution.

Atmosphere established, the album reveals itself one shade at a time. While it might seem an odd choice to release a winter-themed album in the middle of July, the season is inconsequential; it meshes easily with slanted afternoon light through trees, gently lapping waves, and breathtaking mountainous vistas (I’ve made a point of experiencing each accompanied by Mount Shrine, and Winter Restlessness fits them all with equal ease).

Does “Moon’s Distrust,” the second track, sound the same as its predecessor? Basically, yes. The keys are slightly different, but the quiet reflectiveness remains the same. The same applies to “The Silence Between Our Houses”, “Foggy Deck,” and the rest of the album. However, this should not be taken as criticism; rather, Mount Shrine has a clear understanding of what form and function Winter Restlessness was made to fulfill, and if you listen closely (which can be difficult, given the album’s tendency to fade into your headspace), you’ll notice how precisely it is directed, and how cleverly it is assembled. The album works best when the field recordings share the air equally, and perhaps the rain samples of “Lifeless Indoors” are a shade too harsh, but that’s really all the criticism I can level at this majestically constructed waking dream.

Winter Restlessness is anti-progressive, anti-stimulation, and anti-groundbreaking, but those are all to its merit. I’ve heard too many albums in this genre that try too hard at creating a synthetic space, or seem content to flaunt technical skill or ambitious concept. Many artists have attempted to create a similar sensation, but are either too busy or too soporific. Mount Shrine is content with immersing the listener in a particular state, a drifting odyssey through an indistinct territory where the noise of modern culture is reduced to a whisper, and the serenity of the world’s unseen places encourage reflection and detachment. Winter Restlessness achieves an all-too-rare balance between holding too tight and letting go too soon. I, for one, couldn’t be more grateful.