Kryssi Battalene pulled her guitar in close and reached her left arm out around it, a two-second tune-up before she had to hold down the lead guitar part in “Before I Get Out Of Bed.” She looked out into the audience and smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling just slightly in the blue light. And then, without hesitation — she was among friends, after all — she began to play.
Cafe Nine began to morph around her. With a press and turn of her fingers on the strings, the walls were dripping with thick, leaden vibrations. A flick of her wrist, and the floor was carpeted with them. Another chord progression, and amp-chandeliers were hanging from the ceiling, soaking the room in sound.
Battalene makes up one talented quarter of The Mountain Movers (Dan Greene on vocals and guitar; Battalene on lead guitar; Rick Omonte on bass; and Ross Menze on drums). The group gave a stunning performance last weekend at Cafe Nine, headlining after strong sets from the memorably ear-splitting Dead Leaf Echo and Landing.
The Mountain Movers make venues theirs completely for the night, filling them to the brim with exquisite, rock-channeling sound that rises up from the floor, reaches out from the walls, and grabs the whole of a human body. The group’s synchronicity is to thank for this: they play as one jamming, rocking, loud-but-not-too-loud organ, delighting with smart instrumentals and even smarter lyrics.
The group’s newest LP, Death Magic, revels in that factor. Beautifully packaged in Greene’s cover art and not without Omonte’s retro sensibilities, it feels both homespun and indulgent (in a good way) before you start to play it (there are also downloads available here if that’s how you roll). The music, recorded in former band member John Miller’s basement, shows why. It’s what the band classifies as deliberately “low-fi,” moving into deliciously unvarnished territory. Songs like “Before I Get Out of Bed” and “Nightsong of the Sea” mark a rhapsodic, radical departure from the group’s polished (though equally powerful) Let’s Open Up the Chest (2008), and they are stronger for it.
Turn on. Tune in. But don’t drop out. It seems, in many ways, that this storied group is just getting started on something exciting and new.