In the Clubs: Newly named Albany band builds momentum

After nine years of constant evolution, it appears as though Albany’s Black Mountain Symphony is fin

After nine years of constant evolution, it appears as though Albany’s Black Mountain Symphony is finally settling down.

If you don’t recognize that name, perhaps Justice Once will ring a bell — for about two years, the band went by this name; before that, it was known as Downstairs. Last summer, the band became Black Mountain Symphony, which was actually the group’s first choice early on. So far, it’ has been a good fit.

“To tell the truth, with the new name, I think it fits us the most,” said keyboardist Bear Campo. “We’ve been getting more attention with this name; it’s more catchy and unique. There’s already another band somewhere called Justice Once. [The name] Downstairs was very complicated, like if you were playing a venue that was upstairs, the whole thing gets too complicated.”

Since forming in 2000, the group has gone through numerous lineup changes as well, with Campo and his sister, Annie, on violin, being the only two constant members.

Black Mountain Symphony, with Instrument, Serenity Falls

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Where: Valentine’s, 17 New Scotland Ave., Albany

How Much: $7

More Info: 432-6572,

Now with the addition of guitarist and bassist Orion Kribs, son of local folk luminary John Kribs, in the past year, the band’s membership changes, like its name changes, appear to be at an end.

Mix of influences

But while the group has stabilized, its music remains an all-encompassing mix of influences ranging from new age classical to blues. The band’s members, also including drummer Bill Palinski, share songwriting and singing duties, which makes for some interesting performances. They’ll be playing next at Valentine’s in Albany, with live guitarist C-Rolls, on Friday.

“Sometimes during our live shows, we’ll play a song that sounds completely different from the next song we play, because of the different songwriters and different instrumentation, arrangement that goes into each one,” Campo said. “Some songs drop off the face of the earth and die out, but I think the sound still stays. And, in fact, I think the music has gotten better with the [new] musicians.”

With intricate arrangements and mood shifts, the band’s songs combine Kribs’ folk and rockabilly background; Palinski’s time with jazz, punk and rock bands; Annie Campo’s classical violin and fiddle; and Bear Campo’s love of Yanni and John Tesh. Bear Campo calls the band’s music “symphonic groove pop.”

“There’s a lot of arranging, a lot of different instruments,” he said. “More of it’s poppy, with happy undertones, but some of them are actually haunting. . . . You see with the ‘Fantasy’ song [an early demo on the group’s MySpace page], it’s very kind of dark.”

The band’s first incarnation formed out of a performance at Rock Road Chapel in Berne. In the beginning, the group took on a more theatrical approach with epic-length instrumentals, but has since incorporated more danceable rhythms.

“With the whole indie dance rock thing, a lot of indie bands have been throwing in dance beats, I’ve noticed on the radio,” Campo said. “I don’t know if that has influenced us. . . . I think we just want to see people dance and have a better time at shows. There’s only so far you can go with people sitting down enjoying your music, because people want to have a good time at night.”

Making the violin work

The band’s songs are usually written on piano or guitar, and fleshed out with other instruments. Adding violin can be a challenge sometimes, as it can clash with the vocal melodies, according to Campo. Annie’s playing is a major element in the group’s sound, and helps to set the band apart from other bands with violin.

“I’ve noticed playing out with some bands that the violin is usually used as a fiddle; a lot use it either as a fiddle or for avant-garde, kind of experimental kind of things,” Campo said. “I haven’t heard people infuse classical violin in popular music — maybe in hip-hop, but not in pop or rock ’n’ roll as a major part of the music. There aren’t many guitar solos [in our music]; the guitar solos once in a while, but there’s definitely more violin solos than guitar solos in the band.”

The group’s self-titled debut album, recorded by Charlie Eble and self-produced at Wit’s End in Greenfield, will feature a combination of new material and older songs that have been polished live for the past three or four years. The band has recorded itself on demos in the past, and with Eble’s help was able to learn from past mistakes.

“We’ve taken notes on all our previous recordings throughout the years,” Campo said. “Those are more demos — I consider them garbage — but this one is definitely a professional, full-length, debut album.”

Once the album is released, the band is planning a national tour, its first after having played extensively in the Northeast. And with a name and lineup finally locked into place, the band has seen its stock rise on the regional scene.

“We haven’t had a momentum like this before,” Campo said.

Categories: Life and Arts

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