Cheek Mountain Thief - Cheek Mountain Thief
If you know Tunng, you'll know that they like to jazz up their folk songs with a whole load of electronics. Cheek Mountain Thief - Tunng frontman Mike Lindsay's new side project - manages to accomplish the same thing by just chucking instrument after instrument at the recordings. Stomping percussion, clinking bells, strings and brass all happen at the same time.
It's not a mess. Everything's mixed so well. Vocals are thrown in too; lots of them. Mike's soft voice is picked up and carried by an apparently huge, chanting choir. It's all so rousing; even the slower moments are propelled by a constant shuffle.
The end result feels like a story unfolding. It's like a choral Joanna Newsom, with references to nature and fairytales. But how does it manage to sound so atmospheric? And how can something with so many ingredients be a solo project?
As it happens, there's an answer to that. In part of a romantic story involving a girl he would later marry, Lindsay found himself living in a tiny village called Husavik in the northeast of Iceland. It's overlooked by the Kinna Fjall, akaCheek Mountains. He turned up with no songs and barely any gear, and started making an album. The locals, it turns out, were only too happy to lend their equipment and skills. And so, a solo project became a band. Mike Lindsay became a Cheek Mountain Thief. And the album's expansive beauty begins to make much more sense.
The first track, simply called 'Cheek Mountain', is the key to the whole record. "Whatever the weather, we'll march to the beat of your own drum" isn't the best lyric ever written but, as a summary of the feeling of serenity a place like Husavik must give a jaded English city boy, it's pretty on the nose.
The song's video gives a romantic view of Linday's mountain cabin. Perhaps his biggest piece of thievery is that this vision is replacing the reality; an image search for 'cheek mountain' now finds multiple references to the band and no pictures of the mountains themselves.
But you can't blame him for that. Which one of us wouldn't post photos of our holidays to beautiful places up on the internet for all to see? This thief is doing just the same, except with songs instead of pictures. It's sort of annoying to hear someone else having such an incredible time, but the resulting music is so pretty that you end up not really minding.