An anxiety riddled day turned into an anxiety riddled night, and a friend took me out to see some bands; it was a Saturday. The Golden Dawn was a little less packed than usual. My friend informed me that a band was coming up - this was is their second show - and that I was in for a treat. By the end of the night, I felt pretty good. That was the first time I saw New Gum Sarn, and an album was only the afterthought of a Chris Isaac cover. A year later, and their superb debut New Gold Mountain has finally made it atop my turntable.
Anxiety Nap, the album's opener, is an instrumental reflecting the name, coming out in full jittery fashion. Building and dropping in intensity, New Gum Sarn introduce themselves as a band joyfully acknowledging the insanity of being half awake. Vocals are added shortly thereafter on the track Bad Soy, finding a sweet spot between Jeff Buckley and a blocked nose. The band's core strengths lay in their ability to deviate on the expected progression of song structures; this ability is the basis for delivering their strongest track to date, the excellent Money Talks. Mixing exhilarating instrumentation with poignant lyricism about the depressions that coincide with capitalism, the song feels like the cathartic stripping of day-to-day pressures in order to enjoy a moment.
“I go to school, I got a loan. I learn to find a job to pay for things I’ll never own,” is not sung in protest, but as a way of venting what feels like the inevitable. Halfway through the song, the instrumentation pulls away from the lyricism, forming a feeling of freedom and a way of escape.
The second half of the album follows similar suit in style and quality. The title track New Gold Mountain showcases the emotional spectrum of insignificance, bouncing from sweet romanticised highs, to loud sporadic lows. Blue Flag marks the band's heaviest moments, both sonically and emotionally. The centralised character deals with the all-too-familiar feeling of one's own weight, particularly in the early hours of the morning. On the song Small Boys, a lighter sound is reclaimed. The band finds perhaps their most joyful moment, with jangling guitars entrenched over lust-filled lyrics. Saigon - Paris draws the album to a close, with an ode to The Velvet Underground. A constantly building song progression, paired with backup singing to boot, New Gum Sarn sing of making it through to tomorrow - perhaps the most important theme on the album.
The songs on New Gold Mountain resonate just as much as they did for me a year ago, with a closeness retained in the recordings. A few inconsistencies from the track listing occasionally bog the album down, but not enough to stop this being vital listening in both strength of songwriting and enjoyment.
Catch the band on their nation-wide tour this month - one of the only places we presently are assured you can get your hands on the New Gold Mountain vinyl.