Mountain Mirrors: “Asylum Acres” – poetic lyrics, warm melodies, and selective instrumentation

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Mountain Mirrors is a project by Jeff Sanders. Jeff sings, play the guitars, the keyboards as well as takes care of the arrangements of his music. Through the years he has brought in various musicians to ‘add their unique flavors to quite a few tracks,’ says Jeff. The latest album, “Asylum Acres” include performances by Steve Riley – drums and percussion , Kurt Baumer – violins , Dave DeMarco – bass guitars, baritone guitar on “Asylum Acres”  and Phil Rohr bass on “Spell”.

Jeff explains the idea behind “Asylum Acres” as being “a sort of a concept album about places you’d visit in dreams, out of body experiences, astral projection etc. Not a “musical novel”, but more like a collection of horror/suspense short stories (think Poe, Lovecraft or Stephen King)…”

Jeff Sanders - founder of the Mountain Mirrors project
Jeff Sanders – founder of the Mountain Mirrors project

“Asylum Acres” is perfectly appealing to me in every way: lyrically, instrumentally, vocally, its unique style, right down to the cover. Every song stands alone on its own merit yet, the album as a complete composition is breathtaking with each track making the previous and next sound even better.

Musically, you’ll definitely be reminded of quaint acoustic neo-folk sounds though Sanders is apt to dust them with indie-rock influences and heavy doses of Kurt Baumers able violin. His compositions remind me of the stripped down dark moodiness possessed by Nick Drake, blended with the extravagant musical genius of Lindsay Buckingham’s layered arrangements.

Mountain Mirrors’ music is stripped down, but only to the essentials of beauty – poetic lyrics, warm melodies, and selective instrumentation, as Sanders finds a perfect balance between complexity and simplicity on tracks like “Your Angels”, “Dead River Co.” and “Full Of Flies”. While for me the most striking track on the album has to be “Spell” with its punctuated percussive rhythm and richly layered acoustic arrangement tinged by a brief but intense guitar solo. A more elaborate and engaging guitar solo is also to be found in “Full of Flies (alternate Sandman mix)”.

Throughout the album, Saunders sticks to his strengths and compose a beautiful and coherent mélange of mild-mannered – mostly gloomy – sometimes strangely cheerful – but always insightful songs. Yes, “Asylum Acres” is like an experience unto its own. It is one of those albums that have some sort of creative spark, so when you listen to it, you can tell something remarkable is happening in your presence, though you can’t exactly put your finger on it…

Some artists attempt to compose songs that give listeners lucid imagery, transporting them into celestial and entrancing auditory spheres. Some succeed whereas others need to sacrifice melody to do so, concentrating on ethereal synthesized walls of sound. Jeff Sanders and Mountain Mirrors, however, succeed with simple acoustic instrumentation and tons of melody. And Sanders does it better than any recent artist that I can remember.

You don’t have to be particularly gifted to appreciate “Asylum Acres”. All you need is a pair of ears and a love of real music. This album is an utterly staggering collection of moving music!

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