The Apes Baba’s Mountain

[Birdman; 2005]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: grunge metal, jungle rock, pagan punk
Others: Black Sabbath, Le Tigre, Les Georges Leningrad, Experimental Dental School

From the Apes' tour diary, April 10, 2002: "Left for Pittsburgh. On one gas stop, we saw a van for sale in a field for $350 and discussed the possibility of buying it and driving it straight through the wall and into the club in Pittsburgh or letting kids wreck it with bats outside the club."

Hippies? Anarchists? Pagans? Cultists? (The) Apes seem to be at least all of these things. They have long hair and beards, decorate their clothes shoddily with yarn, wear headbands, and pound and scream and sweat. A lot. Something like a modern but tribal psychedelic nightmare, an acid trip through the ruins of a haunted, abandoned insane asylum, long overgrown with ivy and vines and inhabited by a tribe of super-intelligent... well, apes.

Apes are dirty, loud, heavy, and ugly. This band couldn't have chosen a better name for themselves. Their music consists of drums, bass, reverbed organ, overdubbed vocals, all overblown and theatrical and fleshed out with strange samples and snippets of dialogue. What they do with it is hard to describe; they're loud, but not angry, sloppy, but not lo-fi, and to confuse things more, there's a vague but overwhelming sense that they're trying to recruit us with some battle cry, all primal energy and no direction.

Without any first-hand experience, it's obvious this must result in one hell of a live act. But with Baba's Mountain, their third full-length, they meet the stereotypical fate of so many great live bands: shitty in the studio. The act itself of recording these songs destroys them. Most of them aren't very good in the first place, but the Apes aren't about what their songs sound like. Formalizing and finalizing their composition takes all the life out of them, leaving us with a lot of uninteresting, sometimes clumsy, lumps of music. It screams "used rack."

Their 2004 EP Tapestry Mastery was more enjoyable, but the supporting tour probably wouldn't have been. Baba's Mountain sounds like they're realizing the need to capture their rawer, live sound in the studio, and for that reason they might be a lot better off staying out of the studio altogether and recording all their material in a live setting. Seems funny to talk about the "growth" of a band who don't take themselves seriously at all (but who pretend they do). Besides, the Apes don't appear to have very well-defined musical goals in the first place; they've got other things on their minds:

"Spurred by myth, inspired by whispers, many have written us from all over the world, wanting to know more about our mountain retreat. Why not come see for yourself? An all night celebration will commence on the last Saturday of October. In the evening, when a warm breeze stirs the leaves, you will know it is time. Place the mark on your door and listen for the horn of the Green Bus. Do not hesitate, for the bus will wait but a moment, and then be gone. The APES extend their hand in invitation, but that invitation is not for the slow of mind or foot."

1. V-Y March
2. Baba's Mount
3. The Green Bus
4. The Night time Reaper
5. Ornaments and Windchimes
6. Imp Ahh
7. Can U Handle This
8. Organ Syrup
9. The Zookeeper's Night out
10. What we do Best
11. No one can Eat U
12. The Minds of Mortis
13. Who's left Alive