Jenny Sturgeon pays homage to the natural world in an all-encompassing piece of creative art. The Living Mountain is a love letter to the Cairngorms.
Release date: 16th October 2020
Label: Hudson Records
Format: DL / CD / limited LP
A love letter where Jenny Sturgeon redefines the term immersive. It’s a long story and one that has many arms that off in different directions. The catalyst? Nature writer Nan Shepherd’s book of the same name (The Guardian called it “the finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain“) is the first one to seek out. Add Jenny’s own passion for the highlands, a host of field recordings, an audio-visual show and The Living Mountains podcast and you realise why this is much more than an album of music.
Like the mountains themselves, the whole package feels quite daunting. Having said that, the album is made for interacting with the natural environment. The song titles give the game away. Water, Sleep, Air And Light, The Plateau are beyond just titles.
Ten original songs and two arrangements where Shepherd’s poems are set to music and mirror the twelve chapter titles. The idea of the Cairngorms as ‘Britain’s Arctic’ couldn’t be further from the thoughts as an overwhelming feeling of calm pervades the whole album.
The low hum that introduces The Plateau and the rhythm of gentle guitar notes sees us off on an intimate and meditative journey, accompanied by voice that soothes and hypnotises. At one with the sounds and capturing the fascination with nature.
Flowing and tumbling guitar lines, the drone of the harmonium, the reverb of the soft guitar. Frost And Snow is a more ominous few minutes. Another repeating guitar pattern and some sort of vague ticking/scratching deep in the mix have you almost holding your breath as you listen. Air And Light takes us up where the air is clear and talks of a “crystal quality” – a lovely phrase that sums up The Living Mountain.
An album all about restraint and atmosphere and a realisation that each instrument is delicately crafted and woven into the arrangement. Adapted from the Shepherd poem Fires, Man is totally haunting and hypnotic. The ‘staring into the flames’ part of the record. Probably best experienced after Sleep that tells of the joy of sleeping in the great outdoors – Nan Shepherd says “No-one knows the mountain completely who has not slept on it” and it has me longing to get up to the Lakes. for an outdoor bout.
I’d likely have my soundtrack of The Living Mountain to hand. Therapeutic folk music for a new age.
Listen to Air And Light here: