Red Mountain: Scowl Lightly

Paul Whyte

Red Mountain featuring Anton Jimenez-Kloeckl is a musical project that has been evolving for a number of years in the Twin Ports. What was once an experimental project with Jimenez and guest musicians occasionally playing shows is now a fully rounded out band which plays gigs fairly regularly in the area. The debut album, “Scowl Lightly,” brings in a wide pallet of instruments that are tastefully delivered.
While in the last year I have seen shows with Red Mountain with a horn section, the renowned Matt Mobley on bass and various percussion which is a mix of hand claps and work on the drum set, I became very interested in listening to the album after watching the music video for the single “Put Me Through.” This got me to thinking about the value of music videos and that music videos in the area are becoming more common recently, but several years ago they were fairly rare in the Twin Ports and came out almost always after an album had been released. A prime example of music video promotion before a release is Marc Gartman’s Fever Dream videos which can be viewed on Youtube.
When I was a kid my folks and I moved into a house with an old school satellite dish and I was able to access MTV2 back in the day where the channel played music videos 24/7 with no commercial interruption and it turned me on to a lot of music I would have either never known about or it may have taken years to have heard of. What I’m getting at with this is that it’s pretty common for an artist to release an album and then hope someone goes to a show or happens to hear a track on a late night college station show, but with social media, a music video is a terrific way to be proactive about getting one’s music out there and making people excited about it. I’ve always felt that people will care about half as much about an artist’s music as the artist does. Why sit in a studio for hours, spend hundreds or thousands on releasing an album to end up with a few hundred CDs that will end up as stocking stuffers for your family and friends on the holidays? What is particularly confusing to me is the artist that releases an album and then you never hear a peep from them about it ever again even though it might have been a pretty good album.
The single, “Put Me Through,” is the perfect introduction to Red Mountain and what the new incarnation of this band is all about. The song begins simply with Jimenez playing a Rhodes piano which has a very distinctive tone which carries through in much of the album. The other unmistakable driving force of the album is Jimenez’s voice which, if I were to make a comparison, reminds me of Paul Simon; it’s soft and unobtrusive. This is indeed the backbone of the sound, but there’s much more on the album. Enter the backing vocals. The use of backing vocal sounds on this album is incredible and fills it out in a way that can be compared to the way backing vocals fill out some Beach Boys songs; it would not be same album without them. With the drop of the bass and the drums, it becomes immediately apparent that there is some pretty innovative things going on. The final touches that round out the sound is the horn work, in the case of “Put Me Through,” the trumpet played by Grace Holden. If you watch the music video you’ll know right away if you’re going to like this album because it has a pretty definite sound to it.
While the album does carry a certain air about it, it does manage to jump around subtly in the energy and genres it carries with it although it feels sometimes like one song melds into the next. The album begins with an upbeat swing with the track, “Beautiful Love,” this brings in layers of soulful trumpets apparently all played by Holden. The horns take on a feel of Latin music which creates a dramatic effect to the song that perfectly accents the lyrics, “Let’s go out in the night/and see if the moon still shines/There’s smoke in the grass/See how it shines like glass,” sings Jimenez. Another thing is the subtle background vocals by Danie Jimenez, they just underlie everything in the mix and finally at the songs finish, they’re allowed to briefly extend out.
With just a brief pause, the next song, “Chad,” comes in and if you aren’t paying attention it seem likes it’s just a transition into a different segment of the first song. The lyrics are fairly abstract, “The deer upon my sill sure do seem fine/A fine coat of dirt, just like mine.” What really stands out in the track is Mobley’s bass. The song ends with an instrumental break down and vocals that simply shout, “hey,” as well as other interesting vocal sounds. The break down is a mix of jazz and world music between the intricate bass patterns, horn section and unconventional percussion, the creativity of the arrangement is indeed impressive and unique. “A ghost” is credited for the saxophone on the track.
It’s not really surprising to see a song on this album that outright discusses the environment and consumerism. The album as a whole demonstrates simple wisdoms about love, harmony and having a sense of belonging with natural surroundings in an almost cryptic manner. The track, “Eternal Youth,” is fairly straight forward, “You spit out the fumes from your car with indigenous pride/All that is human of you is what you seem to hide…Forget about eternal youth and find the universal truth,” goes the last few lines of the song.
Overall the album has many things going on in it that are just fun. The backing vocals as I mentioned are amazing and with the track, “Home,” it displays that there was some thought put into the production and listening experience. The stops and starts of the instruments that accent Jimenez’s vocals to the swells of back ground vocals that flow into “do-wop” parts in the verses is something that pulls on a lot of influences, but is hard to pin point exactly where it may have come from.
Red Mountain’s first album achieves something original and entertaining, yet somehow deep and meaningful. While it is an experimental album, it remains quite accessible and is enjoyable to listen to. Although the lyrics are aware of hardships, they stay above them and show a strong sense of having a handle on life. As far as the instruments, the choices of arrangement couldn’t really be any better for what they are going for. While some things such as the Rhodes serve as a foundation for the most part, the trumpet, use of percussion and backing vocals are fairly complex and the result is swirling layers of sounds that pop up right where they should.
This album really represents the Duluth area and is a highlight for the Chaperone Records label which is was released under. It was recorded in the Chaperone studio which is for the most part a gutted building in downtown Duluth which is slowly being constructed to be an arts and music center of sorts. The album was mixed and mastered by Sean Elmquist and there are no issues with the job he did. Brian Ring, Pete Biasi and Daniel Nelson also contributed to certain tracks on the album. The album’s cover art (two skeletons lying on rain clouds with snakes poking out of their eyes which are interconnected by a rainbow) was done by Michael Sensea Beachy and David Moreira also contributed on the design.
The full line up of Red Mountain can certainly fill up a stage, which might make things interesting if they ever want to play out of the Twin Ports. Red Mountain live is: Anton Jimenez-Kloeckl, Grace Holden, Erin Tope, Matt Mobley, Gustaf Ekstrand, Charlotte Montgomery, Soren Dietzel and Jeremy Ehlert. Expect a fun and high energy performance.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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