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Album Review
Rif Mountains

Rif Mountains
by Photonic


Review Date
26th October 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

Photonic is the brain-child of Auckland’s Craig Scott. Under this pseudonym he has created an album of bizarre riff rock that could very well melt your brain. Rif Mountains is his third album under the Photonic title and he is as taxing and rewarding as ever. This is the work of just one solitary, determined man (contributing all of the guitars, vocals, and beats) but the towering sound herein doesn’t often sound like it. The vocals are sparse add some new texture here and there but they are buried quite deep in the mix so don’t expect to find any gleaming revelations in there.

Make no mistake; guitars rule the land of Rif Mountains. They can be dream-like and disarming (such as on the opening song, ‘Camera Stellata’), but generally they are just punishing and coarse. It is hard not to picture Scott as a lone rock warrior perched triumphantly on top of a throne of amps, his axe blazing and smouldering away. But this is worlds away from Steve Vai or any of his self-indulgent virtuoso contemporaries. Photonic retains a primal edge that appeals to the music scholar and the head-banging caveman alike. ‘5htp’ lays down some killer sludgy tones of the cold beats of an 808. This is typical fare of the album as it is followed by ‘You, Babbling Fluent Babylonian’ and many other similar tracks. The booming bass beats of ‘Corpus Colosseum’ opens things up a little before the suffocating guitar grime inevitably returns. And then there is album closer ‘&’, more than 27 daunting minutes of primordial guitar grind. You have been warned.

So what is Rif Mountains? It resembles a rock album at times but it is one without any overarching sense of structure or hooks of any kind. The guitars are feral enough to be metal, but the approach to the beats tends to push you away from that conclusion. Rif Mountains just is, like a timeless force of nature unbending in the face of futile categorization. Rif Mountains is a love-letter of sorts to guitars and guitarists. There are other instruments in there, both organic and digital, but the riffs (or should that be rifs?) reign supreme and without question. It is clear to see that the album’s ethos is far too uncompromising and obtuse for mainstream play. Do not enter the world of Photonic expecting to hear the next Kings of Leon. What you will find is a portal to a terrifying, magical place. This is unashamed amplifier worship from one of our country’s sharpest self-made musos. Is Scott likely to become a household name overnight? Unfortunately not. But it is this kind of driven auter-ism that needs to be supported if we are to expect something challenging from our prestigious home-grown talent.


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