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"Feeding the fire of Mountainhood"

Do you know the way to ... Almaden? Not many know about that tiny, once-rural cowtown-now-San Jose-incorporated bedroom community. But Michael Hilde, a.k.a. Mountainhood, can map it out for you.
"I've never, ever played a show where I've told somebody that I'm from Almaden and they'll be like, 'Oh, yeah.' No one has ever heard of it," the affable and intense songwriter swears, sitting on a log in a breezy patch of woods at a sandy edge of the Presidio. "But it's a wild town. When I moved there, it was straight-up country. There were stallion farms and on the edge of my block there was a Harley-Davidson bar. Every Saturday night, guaranteed, you'd see two fat, wet guys just duking it out through the window."
Love of home led Hilde to name his 2007 CD-R on Finland's 267 Laattajaa label after his town, as well as the name of his musical project (he switched to Mountainhood after a dream spent communing with Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic on a star-filled mountain).

Home also brought him to City Hall when that biker bar, Feed & Fuel, was about to be torn down. "It's funny because when I went there, right before I was to speak, they were doing this whole bill on whether cops could have the right to bust into illegal immigrants' houses and harass them," Hilde recalls. "And I was, like, 'I can't believe I'm here to, like, talk about saving a bar. There were all these people with translators weeping. So I got up and gave an impromptu speech, and then afterwards, I sat back down, and people were, like, 'You were amazing! What do you do?' I was, like, 'I'm a folk singer,' and they were like, 'Oh, that makes sense. We get it.'<0x2009>"
And folks are starting to get Hilde's brand of cosmic Americana — a blend of delicate Banhart-esque rusticity, 1960s-era transcendental instrumentals, and modern-day home-recorded drone experimentalism. After a handful of lower-fi releases, his next two albums, Thunderpaint the Stone Horse Electric and Wings from a Storm, will be put out this summer on 180-gram vinyl, with stickers of Hilde's impressionistic paintings by Time Lag. Yet despite the fact that Hilde has been building a community of sorts with his monthly Story night at the Stork Club — each performer adds a bit to a running narrative during their set — Hilde seems to cherish his outsider status in the local music scene as he describes one packed Lobot Gallery performance. "I'll never forget their expressions," he says, miming a look of opened-mouth disbelief. "It's stayed that way ever since I started playing here."
July 19, 9 p.m., $5
Argus Lounge
3187 Mission, SF
(415) 824-1447 - San Francisco Guardian

"Folksinger Michael Hilde writes songs inspired by growing up in Almaden"

By Jeanne Carbone Lewis
Staff Writer

Growing up in Almaden Valley from the age 7, Michael Hilde enjoyed horse farms, hanging at the Quicksilver Café and hiking at Quicksilver Park. These experiences and more are shared in thought-provoking lyrics sung on his debut CD titled, appropriately enough, “Almaden.”

Michael Hilde finds inspiration at Almaden Quicksilver Park.
Photo by Jeanne Carbone Lewis
Listening to the folksinger’s music reminds the listener of another thought-provoking poet/singer: Bob Dylan. He even calls himself “Almaden” as a tribute to the area that he loves. And at only 25, the young man has found his calling performing at local clubs.

“God made cats and dogs to be cats and dogs,” said an introspective Hilde. “He made flowers to be flowers. He made me to sing songs and write words. Who am I to turn it around and say I’m going to be flower. I’m a human being who does what he does.”

Hilde’s journey to songwriter and folksinger started innocently enough. He remembers “the orchards, the stallion farm, a dangerous Feed and Fuel, a bright Quicksilver Café and coyotes singing to the new fall moon.” The sights and sounds penetrated the young boy’s consciousness and resonate in his music today.

He attended Graystone Elementary, Bret Harte Middle and Bellarmine Preparatory schools.

“Michael was always very creative,” said Sima Hilde, Michael’s mother. “When he was younger he acted, wrote, painted and now is a musician. I hope and pray he will make it. You have to support your children and allow them to follow their dreams. Michael puts his heart into whatever he does.”

Arnold Hilde echoes his wife’s thoughts, but with a father’s concern.

“It’s a tough business,” said Arnold Hilde. “We’re both supportive. Michael’s a great communicator, always into mental gymnastics. He’s quite an unusual person because of his multiple talents—and he’s a fierce competitor.”
Eric Palgon first met Hilde at Bret Harte Middle School.

“Michael was always creative and talented,” said Palgon. “In school he acted. He even did a Sega commercial where they shaved his head with their logo. We’ve kept in contact through the years at UCLA, in San Francisco but he always comes back to Almaden. In school he sang and played his guitar and wrote music. He is so charismatic and funny—he was probably the most popular guy at school.”

The world is a stage
Hilde excelled at Bellarmine Preparatory School academically. English Department and Theater Arts Director Tom Alessandri is still in contact with him and remembers his performances well.

Almaden’s Michael Hilde performs at a local venue. Photo by Thor Matuschka
“Michael was a student in several of my upper division English electives—a superb, mature and insightful writer, analyst and speaker,” said Alessandri. “I directed him in several shows including “Nicholas Nickleby” and “Moon over Buffalo,” where he played with utter believability the grandmother character—not done as male in drag but as an actor who happened to be male playing a character who happened to be a woman. His performance was deft, comic and rich.”

Alessandri was equally impressed with Hilde as the lead character in “The Elephant Man.”

“Michael’s John Merrick was truly amazing—done entirely with body mechanics to display the massive deformities. He received standing ovations every performance. It was heartbreaking. Mike is sui generis [its own kind/genius]: an absolutely unique and uniquely talented performer” added Alessandri.

But Hilde’s exploration into career possibilities was just beginning. He attended University of California, Los Angeles [UCLA] and New York University. He received his degree from NYU in English.

Along life’s highway, Hilde has written an off-Broadway play, “Strangers,” based on the Beach Boys song “Sloop John B,” as well as endless journals of poetry and published short stories. He wrote two novels—one about young adults across America questioning existence; the other an experimental book with no paragraphs. He has worked in several capacities, including trivia writing in Manhattan, directing small movies, working as a bookbinder at UCLA, a web developer, a bartender and a security guard in Big Sur. And he reads voraciously. In between journeys, he always comes home to Almaden, drawing inspiration for future creative endeavors.

The renaissance man attributes his musical and literary influences to an eclectic mix of artists: Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Devendra Banhart, William Blake, Shakespeare, and Allen Ginsberg.

Hilde is passionate about camping, star gazing, rain tasting, fog measuring, taking vitamins, talking to animals (he’s an artist!) and spending time “down by the river.”

Hilde was in New York on 9/11. He remembers walking many miles from his apartment where he witnessed the tragedy and mused about the irony of people standing in a long line at Starbucks during the devastating aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center.

The music
When asked when he decided to become a musician, he points to a trip to the central coast. “It all came together in Big Sur living in a tent cabin in the redwoods,” said Hilde, regarding his musical career. “I played with psychedelic musicians who toured there and I wrote songs. Before I was on the river system, now I’m on the Mississippi and I know this river is going to the ocean.”

Hilde often speaks in metaphors, beautiful phrases representing his feelings about life. He writes passionately about the changes he’s witnessed in Almaden in his music:

“These Quicksilver Hills are wearin’ to my brain like a mercury craze:
They’re building condos on the Feed n Fuel,
Protest down at city council.

Dream dreams late at night
About comin’ up from behind,
Kissing her black hair.

I’m thinkin’ soon a’ maybe leavin’ my home
“Cause it’s not a home but a real estate boom.

Remember when they ripped up the stallion farm? To build the homes where my friends grew up?

I learned all their names in middle school,
Lawyers for fathers and psychos for mothers.

Who needs friends instead of stallions?”

—From “The Ballad of Young Johnny Easyheart”

Lyrics from “Everything’s Gold” demonstrate Hilde’s softer side.

“I love you.
Do you love me?

First speak the truth
And then we’ll see.

I saw you
In the meadow.
Glowing songs
Spun from wheat.

Everything, everything,
everything’s’ gold.”

“Michael writes about the environment, his surroundings, the things he’s seen and fallen in love with and makes them magical” said friend Thor Matuschka. “He really is a great lyricist. And he’s one of those people who immediately becomes a best friend.”

Besides a singer and songwriter of over 50 songs, Hilde plays the guitar, harmonica, auto harp, cello and other musical instruments to fit his mood. He has appeared at a variety of venues including Barefoot Coffee Roasters, Sofa Lounge, San Francisco’s Mama Art Café and the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Co. He has two appearances scheduled this month: Dec. 14, 8 . p.m. at Good Karma, 37 S. First St., San Jose and Dec. 29, 8 p.m. at Barefoot Coffee Roasters, 5237 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara. - Almaden Times

"Sounds of the Summer of Love echo through today"

Saturday, July 28, Edinburgh Castle. Almaden. Guitarist Michael Hilde, who actually hails from Almaden Valley down by San Jose, performs a shambling, acoustic folk that bears resemblance to Tyrannosaurus Rex-era Mark Bolan. That Hilde's list of influences includes Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Devendra Banhart, and Allen Ginsberg says it all. - San Francisco Weekly

"Raven Sings the Blues"

A few releases from Almaden have graced the RSTB mailbox and each with its own personality. Michael Hilde aka Almaden plays very much in the hermit folk style that Kyle Field and Phil Elverum have claimed as their personal sanctuary. Songs range from the expansive and meditative "Buffalo and Daughter" from an album whose name could very well devour the rest of this review so we'll call it The Dream Continues(267 Lattajjaa); to the upbeat scuzz folk romps that grace Come On, Do The Monster Mash. The latter album, which seems to be an early working out of styles swings enthusiastically between influences, following noise with ambience and folk with pop, even squeezing in an ode to the aforementioned Fields. The Dream Continues refines Hilde's style, still wafting between folk and ambience but with a steady assurance and soft cohesiveness that is strung together by the themes of Life, Meditation and Death. Almaden is a corrosive mixture eating at the conceptions of pop and folk and lighting the bedroom anthem on fire with dissonance. -Raven Sings the Blues - Raven Sings the Blues

"Foxy Digitalis Review"

Feedback and blurry dissonance resides as droning fuzz arcs its way over space and depth. Vocals heavily distorted cower behind stripped back guitar. Improvised trickery is recorded in harsh reverb and subtle analogue beauty. The sound is steeped in early folk/blues, with muffled fuzz akin to recent outings by the wonderful Ignatz. This is introverted music played as the blues should be, and sounding like a damaged, archaic 78 of Skip James spun at half speed. Seemingly taking his inspiration from genre outsiders, namely Dredd Foole and Ilyas Ahmed: Mountainhood begins with a convincing and arresting sound.

The second outing is delightfully titled 'Fucking Beautiful'. A warbling recorder is blown alongside atypical guitar strumming and reclusive vocals. This time the vocal clarity blurs through with an audible lo-fi quality. The lyrics are passionate yet seem to tell a tale of make-believe stream of consciousness, and not quite convincing. Some interesting pitch and melody shifts elevate this track beyond its immediate impression.

The third song drifts into being with an exquisitely touching melody that is soon accompanied with emotional vocal of high pitched feral sadness. Sounding somewhere between a lost Dave Pajo session and Leafcutter John's 'The Sky is Darker Than the Road' album. Quivering vocals seem so fragile, at breaking point, unable to express anything but honesty. This is a truly affecting song with a timeless melody to spend an autumns evening with.

Traditional folk sensibilities ensue with the forth track of this surprising record. Sounding like pastoral England with a fantastical edge, this is a little highlight. Haunting vocal humming ends the tune with ghostly winds. The next track plucks into being reducing the tempo to a slow plod. This track has elements in common with the Canadian improv balladeers Eric Cheneaux and Sandro Perri, (at their most restrained). Glasses ring out almost saturating the piece, yet hover just beyond intrusion. More lyrics of nature worship and mountain gazing ensue.

Finally a strange tune sounding like Eric Cartman singing a Sparklehorse song explodes upsetting what up to now had been a successful and surprisingly touching collection of songs. The guitar melody has emotional and eloquent moments, but the strained vocals sound a little scraping at times. This is definitely an exception from an artist who seems to be heading in the right direction. Overall the melodies where often inspiring and the intimacy involving. With imminent releases due on the awesome Time-Lag records, this is definitely an act to watch. 7/10 -- Peter Taylor (24 September, 2008) - Foxy Digitalis


Michael Curtis Hilde phones it in from Almaden Valley in San Jose, CA.

Michael is a dude that finds himself at the epicenter of everything that's good about modern psychedelia, having lived in both New York City and the Bay Area; curated an incredible run of shows on both coasts called the Story, with a who's who of the brightest lights in folk and psych (himself included); and put out a slew of releases this year on international freak-focused labels Important, Reverb Worship, Time-Lag, Blackest Rainbow, and 267 Lattajjaa.

But don't call it the year of Mountainhood, cuz' Michael's just getting started. So what does the man sound like? Devendra Banhart is an obvious reference point, owing somewhat to the vocals, but whereas Devendra is chiefly a great songwriter, Mountainhood is, as the name implies, much bigger, and, well far stranger. True, these are some great songs, but Michael draws from all over the place, including elements of drone, raga, and improv into his dream narratives. The results, in the order of this set, include searing instrumentals, jaunty folk-pop, and damaged throat tearing.

So good!
Nadav, KDVS 11/30/2009 - KDVS 90.3 FM - Phoning it in


Mountainhood - Variable Titles/Live at Deerborn House- 3" CDR (Reverb Worship) 2010
Mountainhood - Shine Shine - CS (Spookytown) 2010

Previous Releases:
Mountainhood - The Road: Part 2 in the Multi-Visorial Dreamsaga called: The Light - 7" (Important Records) 2009
Mountainhood - Death Pod - 12" Single (Blackest Rainbow Records) 2009
Mountainhood - Thunderpaint the Stone Horse Electric - LP (Time Lag) 2009
Mountainhood - Wings from a Storm -LP (Time Lag) 2009
Mountainhood - Art Editions - 2LP (Time Lag) 2009
Mountainhood - White Banquet: Live at the Story Chapter I - CDR (Reverb Worship) 2009
Mountainhood - Goldeness (being part 1 in the multivisorial dream saga called "The Light") - CDR (Ecstatic Yod Collective) 2008
Mountainhood - Brother the Cloud - CDR (Reverb Worship) 2008
Mountainhood - Year of the Mountain -CDR (Reverb Worship) 2008
Almaden - Come On, Do the Monster Mash - free download (Deep White Sound) 2007
Almaden - The Dream Continues in 1,000,000 Roads as the Journeyman Slumbers to be Awoken by the Berries of Air and Forest, a Dawn Pre-Imagined and so Owned in Footstep and Deed as Our Lovely Sojourner of Unabysmal Light Sojourns 4th into Willowy and Totally Purple Dawning, Day is Upon r Hero and the Golden Rd. of Infinitudinous Blessedhood - CDR (267 Lattajjaa) 2007
Almaden - Almaden - CDR (Private Press) 2006



A NOTE ON DIGITAL DOWNLOADS: It's come to our attention that our fans have made all of our previous releases available for free digital download on various file share servers. We appreciate this show of love and support. As most our previous releases were limited edition, they can now be available to a wider public.

From Wikipedia:

Michael Curtis Hilde, a.k.a Mountainhood (born October 18, 1981 in Northern California) is an American singer, songwriter, and visual artist. Hilde currently lives in New York City.
Prior to performing and recording as Mountainhood, Hilde was at various times known as Almaden, Almaden Wood, or Almaden Wood and the Transplendence XIV - taking the name from the Mercury mining town where Hilde grew up,[1] a place where Hells Angels and farmers lived.[2] Though style and genre shift from album to album, it has been written that "This is introverted music played as the blues should be."[3]
While operating in San Francisco, Hilde curated and performed at a monthly gathering called The Story.[4] With posters painted by Hilde and visual artist Arik Roper, The Story outlined a new school made up of folk singers and drone groups where "each performer adds a bit to a running narrative during their set" [5]. The Story is still going on in New York. Another one happened in December 2008.
The California series took place at The Stork Club in Oakland, and followed in the footsteps of Hilde's San Siern Holyoake & Wood Festival at The Hotel Utah in San Francisco, May 2007, touted as "A Holy Sunday Gathering of the Brightest in New Folk Music from the Length of California" [6]
Hilde organized the Arthurdesh festival to benefit the counterculture journal Arthur Magazine[7] at Market Hotel. A week later, he organized the first See-In. [8]
Michael Curtis Hilde first began writing and recording while living in the Big Sur redwoods. [1]
His first official release (as Almaden) appeared in Finland on the forest-folk imprint, 267 Lattajjaa, bearing an album title of over fifty words ending in "Blessedhood"[9]
Mountainhood signed to Time Lag Records in 2008. [10]