ALARM’s recap of CMJ 2012 (photos)

Spread out across venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn, this year’s CMJ Music Marathon provided a glimpse at some of the year’s best emerging artists in addition to a healthy lineup of veteran performers. With five days of showcases and concerts to attend, the festival offered something for everyone, with bands representing a variety of genres.

Jenks Miller

Guest Spot: Jenks Miller discusses five “heavier than metal” albums

Horseback: The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden PlanetHorsebackThe Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden Planet (Relapse, 5/10/11)

Horseback: “The Golden Horn”

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As a member of both psych-metal band Horseback and folk-rock outfit Mount Moriah, North Carolina-based guitarist Jenks Miller is versatile, to say the least. In our recent review of Horseback’s new album, a combination of two past albums entitled The Gorgon Tongue, Miller’s Jekyll-and-Hyde tendency is lauded — one minute brooding and drone, another supremely melodic, almost poppy. In this Guest Spot, Miller explores his history with the darker, more chaotic side of music, laying bare the essential beauty of the extreme.

Mount Moriah

Pop Addict: Mount Moriah’s Mount Moriah

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Mount Moriah: Mount MoriahMount Moriah: Mount Moriah (Holidays for Quince, 4/12/11)

Mount Moriah: “Lament”

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Back in 2005, Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller met while working at a record store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The two would delve into their own musical endeavors — McEntire partaking in the post-punk outfit Bellafea and Miller in the avant/psych-metal project Horseback. After the pair collaborated as Un Deux Trois on the Lovers EP in 2007, they decided to make their collaboration a full-time gig, and they formed Mount Moriah, releasing a debut EP, The Letting Go, last year.

It was soon obvious that Mount Moriah was a stark departure for McEntire and Miller, as they traded in their obscure, not-easily-defined credentials for stripped-down alt-country/folk music. And the duo’s knack for crafting simple (but not simplistic) classic tunes comes through loud and clear on Mount Moriah’s self-titled follow-up.


Record Review: Horseback’s The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden Planet

Horseback: The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden PlanetHorseback: The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden Planet (Relapse, 5/10/11)

Horseback: “The Golden Horn”

[audio:|titles=Horseback: “The Golden Horn”]

Jenks Miller is the sole constant in avant-metal outfit Horseback. Miller’s output — occasionally under his own name, often as Horseback, and recently with the Americana group Mount Moriah — has been a steady trickle over the past three years, with each release offering a new glimpse of the artist’s capabilities. To consider Miller’s art only in terms of his 2010 breakout, The Invisible Mountain, is like considering an iceberg only in terms of its tip.

Such an assumption is also likely to leave you confused upon hearing The Gorgon Tongue, which compiles Impale Golden Horn (Miller’s 2007 debut as Horseback) and last year’s ultra-limited Forbidden Planet cassette. Each is radically different from the other and also from the lumbering kraut-metal/Americana hybrid upon which Horseback built its reputation.

But that reputation came after more than two years of output, slowly revealing the character of the project and the Chapel Hill musician behind it all. Horseback began as a method for Miller to focus his concentration, to help manage his obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Impale Golden Horn — which Miller spent three years recording and reworking before its 2008 release — introduces Horseback as a patient, meticulous sculptor of sound. “Laughing Celestial Architect,” at 17 seconds past the 15-minute mark, is Impale’s second-longest track (behind the 17-minute opener, “Finale”). It’s a slow, smoldering rise, not unlike waking up as sunlight slowly fills the room. This mixture of ascendant dynamics, meditative repetition, and calming timbres is indicative of the collection. It’s a bluff belying all of Miller’s work to follow. It makes the improvisatory follow-up seem almost ironically relaxed.