When considered at a distance, the work of Jenks Miller seems pat enough, a logical progression from one dark obscurity to the next. But with each release, the Chapel Hill noisenik has managed to recast at least some element of his sound. Impale Golden Horn, his 2007 Horseback debut, soaked in bliss-drenched guitars for quarter-hour stretches. For a debut, it was strikingly confident in its approach. Last year, though, Miler confounded, returning under his given name with Approaching The Invisible Mountain, which suggested Neil Young's Dead Man soundtrack in its improvised Gulch Ghost blues. And this year, he returned as Horseback with a two-sided slab of trance-like black metal rancor called MILH IHVH.
But while the hums and echoes of each release were distinct, each bore a piece of the sound that emerges on The Invisible Mountain as Horseback's revelation of self: endless, meditative peyote music. With the second Horseback LP, Miller tethers the hellish vocals and aggression of MILH to an overfed version of Approaching's serpentine blues guitar to the hushed majesty of Golden Horn. All in all, it's like a vision quest guided by Rhys Chatham, Tony Iommi and Matthew Bower.
"Invokation" opens with thunderous restraint. Miller traces and retraces a circular drum pattern with a sooty guitar figure and presses his harsh vocals against the rhythm, like dirty nails against leather flesh. Fading in and then fading out, "Invokation" seems a snippet of something without time, as if the toms and chunks of guitars stretch on forever, like the desert highway they should soundtrack.
Immediately, a fuzzed-out bass reclaims attention. Cymbals signal the arrival of another freeway-wide drum part, as a wobbly organ claims the right channel, ceding ground to Death Valley guitars in the left. "Tyrant Symmetry" is of the same mind as "Invokation"—as the drum fills mark the passage of time, what you get in the beginning is what you get for the entirety. A second guitar emphasizes the groove, and Miller's growl returns below the melee. The repetitive pulse suggests peers like Grails (see their "Erosion Blues") and Earth (see their The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull). As "Tyrant Symmetry" ends, its closing, fidgety 25-second drum solo serves as the intro for the title track. Spacey guitar wizardry and barreling bass continue the album's pummeling meditation.
There are no climaxes here. Mountain isn't cathartic thanks to moments of release, but rather its 40-minute commitment to deliberation—a fact best exemplified by album-closing beauty "Hatecloud Disolving Into Nothing." Over 16 minutes, an album's worth of accumulated bitterness and venom diffuses into sheer beauty. It's only fitting that Miller would return to the grand ambiance of his debut to cap off an album that shows how remarkably far he's come since Impale Golden Horn.