The Urban Dictionary’s primary definition of ‘Desolation’ reads, ‘to be utterly annihilated to be destroyed nothing else left”. Tracing a line with those words back to Tim Rice-Oxley and Jesse Quin, the duo who formed Mt. Desolation back in 2010 as a tongue-almost-in-cheek Americana band, you’ll find very little to pull up parallels. Their debut album, self-titled and released in the same year as they formed, was a warm, harmonious and richly moreish record, touched by the pair’s innate understanding of melody, and doffing a ten-gallon to the scorched plains of Steinbeck or Cormac McCarthy’s America. Not quite pastiche, it was an engrossing glimpse through the viewfinder at how one musician in East Sussex and one in rural Suffolk could take on a sound almost completely alien to British soil. Write about what you know, they say. Who are ‘they’ anyway?
Fast forward some eight years, and Mt. Desolation have reconvened with album two, ‘When The Night Calls.’ Where ‘Mt. Desolation’ felt like a reaction to the extended hiatus from the day job (Tim, a founding member, keyboardist, and primary songwriter of multi-million selling Keane, and Jesse, the latterly added fourth member of the band on bass), When The Night Calls is a much darker, more brooding affair that feels decidedly more realised, more focused, and ultimately more rewarding.
They’ll tell you that, like the formation of the project originally, the suggestion of a second album came from pub conversations that spiralled, and that they “just like making music and always have done”, yet WTNC suggests something focused, more necessary than that. There remains no obvious pressure, but the stakes feel a little higher, this is a record deserving of ears.
Jesse Quin, the more jocular of the pair, who’s spent the past eighteen months listening to Ry Cooder’s Paris, Texas OST, Karen Dalton, and Thundercat, describes the record as thus: “all these songs are based on being obsessed with something that you (usually) know won’t make you happy, but you want anyway. But you don’t want. But you do want. None of them are autobiographical. But they’re all autobiographical. Hmm..”
“There’s a sense throughout the record that darkness is always close at hand to lure you away from the good stuff. Darkness in the form of desire, obsession, regret, inertia, being trapped” reflects Tim, with a certain heaviness of heart. Lots has changed since they were touring together, and whilst ‘When The Night Calls’ doesn’t suggest any sense of regret at the conclusion of that (far from it, ‘Someday, Somehow’ sounds like prime Hopes & Fears era Keane, whether they like it or not), perhaps there’s a spotlight they’ve metaphorically placed above their own heads.
Recorded at Sea Fog Studios in Sussex, and Old Jet in Suffolk, this album was produced by the pair alongside their broader band (familiar cohorts from the debut album sessions: Phil Renna, Fimbo, and Philip Scott-Ilsoe). There are new players too, Tamsin Tapolski (backing vocals), Lisken Jellings (violin), and Tim’s daughter Lilac (omnichord). It was a lot of fun, they say.
Tim: “Mt. Desolation is as much about hanging out with our friends and the joy of playing music in a room together, as it is about actually having a recording to listen back to.”
Jesse concludes, “When you listen to it, we hope that what people hear is six friends doing what they love in a way that sounds natural.
“Because that’s what music is all about for us.”