Arc Mountain is the underground-label collaboration you’ve been waiting for | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Music » Music Review

Arc Mountain is the underground-label collaboration you’ve been waiting for

By

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

Like doesn’t necessarily breed like—just ask all the friends for whom I’ve tried (and failed) to play cupid. But similarity is bliss for underground labels Deathbomb Arc and Hausu Mountain, which collaborated to release the compilation Arc Mountain on May 7. Based respectively in Los Angeles and Chicago, these eclectic, irreverent labels might be separated by geography, but they’re soul mates aesthetically. Arc Mountain only proves it: three years in the making, it pairs an artist from the DBA roster with another from HausMo on each track, and in doing so manages to sound fizzily spontaneous. The album, which benefits drug-policy-reform organization Last Prisoner Project, peaks with a disquieting twofer in its latter half: the doe-eyed aesthetic of “Good Boy (Proud),” by bedroomy sound collagist Margot Padilla (of DBA) and industrial-experimental musician Khaki Blazer (of HausMo), belies its disturbing commentary on radicalization and gun violence, and the fun-house fever dream of “Wicked Thoughts” (with vocals by Bay Area-based Sarn and production by Mukqs, aka HausMo cofounder Max Allison) presents a four-minute horror story set in the speaker’s own mind. After a few spins, however, I found myself stridently disagreeing with the liner notes’ claim that Arc Mountain “ris[es] above the ranks of a grab-bag ‘compilation’ to pursue a cohesive album-length statement.” And why should it have to? The only through lines in DBA and HausMo’s catalogs are that they have no through lines, and the songs on Arc Mountain come together more like a potluck than a chef’s tasting menu. The opening “Scene!” (Chicago genre shredder Fire-Toolz and Tampa-based rap duo They Hate Change) charges out of the gate as hot as the most breakneck tracks by DBA alum JPEGmafia, buzzy bass, relentless verses, and all; “The Reaction” (Khaki Blazer and Brooklyn-based R&B vocalist Fielded) forms the lyrical heart of the album, swelling with swaggering grandiosity; and on “Hausu Nis Now? 4/25/19 Greensboro,” Cooling Prongs (aka Clipping. collaborator Christopher Fleeger) and MrDougDoug (aka Doug Kaplan, HausMo’s other founder) blend up and reassemble a live show by LA comedian George Chen into a ricocheting stereo treatment. Might the album be more cohesive if all 21 artists (13 from DBA, eight from HausMo) had put their heads together to create a unified product? Sure, but it'd be a lot less fun. Let the kaleidoscope tumble, and long live the knights of music’s underground.   v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →