Mountains Move Like Clouds is Canadian percussionist Noam Bierstone's first album release in his own right; he has featured on three previous albums, the most recent being Mani. Giacometti (Kairos, 2020) which featured two compositions by the Vienna-based Italian composer Pierluigi Billone, one of them performed by Bierstone's duo called scapegoat, with Australian saxophonist Joshua Hyde. For Mountains Move Like Clouds, Bierstone did not opt to showcase his many and various percussion skills, instead choosing to play three compositions for solo percussionist by three separate composers; that is fitting as Bierstone's artistic life has been dedicated to creating, developing and interpreting music by living composers. So, the sixty-one-minute album comprises three tracks: Swedish composer Hanna Hartman's fifteen-and-a-half-minute "Message from the Lighthouse" from 2009/16, the aforementioned Billone's thirty-two-and-a-half-minute "Mani. Δίκη" from 2012, and Turkish composer Zeynep Toraman's twelve-and-a-half-minute title track from 2019. All three were recorded at Paroisse Saint-Joseph Riviere-des-Prairies, Montreal, in May 2021.
Straight from the album's opening sounds, it is clear that Bierstone is not constrained by conventional notions of percussion, but is prepared to deploy a much broader range of sounds. So, the first sound heard here could easily be a tin cup that is being dragged across a hard, rough surface. (The YouTube clip below of the Toraman piece gives some idea of Bierstone's set-up and confirms he was not dragging a tin cup...) Further unconventional sounds are added and combine together in a complex, multi-layered soundscape which makes fascinating listening, however often it is played. As Hartman's own notes say, "Message From The Lighthouse" features a percussionist that acts more as an exciter or prober of sounds rather than a typical instrumentalist. Although she was writing that about her own piece, Hartman's observation applies to the entire album. That is fully borne out by the Billone- composed track which follows and dominates the album; it is an ever-fluid and evolving collage of metallic sounds which give it an industrial feel and call to mind those masters of the genre, Test Department, but without their rhythmic drivethere only being one Bierstone.
Closing the album is Toraman's "Mountains Move Like Clouds" which is as different from the other two as they are from each other; in addition to a selection of percussion, it includes a range of other recorded sounds such as birdsong and white noise. It makes a fitting finale to the album, emphasising its diversity. As a first solo album, this is very commendable and promises much for future recordings from Bierstone.
Message From The Lighthouse; Mani.Δίκη; Mountains Move Like Clouds.