Season’s End, the debut album of Dutch composer and songwriter Xander Slikker, recalls the ghosts of a style a decade passed. Gotye, Passenger, and Mumford & Sons at their most delicate all have their place in Facing Mountains’ wayfaring approach. In some respects Slikker provides the jolt that past style of indie folk needed by attempting to channel the unhinged electronic folk permutations of Sufjan Stevens and Radiohead. Indeed Slikker is slick – check the tactful layering of piano, guitar, and counter melodies on “Fleeting Mind” – but almost to a fault. Like a glass of mineral water Season’s End is soothing and so digestible you forget you drank it.
Opening track “Echo Returns” encapsulates Slikker’s aim, featuring slow pop melodies and gentle vocals with an ear towards pensive storytelling. Halfway through Slikker unloads everything in his sonic toolbox. He dumps a vocoder over himself and heaps of electronic layers into the mix. It tries to remain in-line with the track’s wandering nature but comes off as obtuse. Othertimes Slikker’s contemplative approach is at odds with his pop tendencies. He’s interested in the expansiveness of his world but when he hones in on a poppier track like “Season’s End” there’s a lacking wonder and personality. It’s pleasantry that should evoke pageantry. In these moments Season’s End is plush – a delicately crafted pillow fort that, if it were to collapse, wouldn’t leave an impact beyond the brush of a feather.
Slikker is at his strongest when he abandons the folk, forgets the pop, and goes for feeling. “Slowing Down in Daydreams” supplies a chewy texture through a smattering electronic touch and a faint guitar howl, putting meat on an album that would have benefited from more gristle. The gem of Season’s End is the final track and the largest stylistic risk Facing Mountains takes. Slikker abolishes all pop pretenses and delivers a meditative instrumental. It’s more patient than any of the other tracks, building off of a reverb heavy guitar similar to the most shimmering of post-rock. Slikker is free to traverse this realm he’s created at his own pace.
Slikker could ditch the pop, forego the occasionally jarring electronics, and craft more expansive valleys to explore like ”After All.” Through this practice Facing Mountains would allow listeners to chart their own worlds. Maybe that’s where his talent lies – in helping others discover their own stories instead of his own.