Review : Mount Eerie - Clear Moon
PitchforkPhil Elverum, the force behind the Microphones and Mount Eerie, lives in a small town of just under 20,000 people town called Anacortes in Washington, about 64 miles outside of Seattle. As he told Brandon Stosuy in last week's Pitchfork interview, he recently took an extended break from touring to record two albums there, and he speaks of it as a calming, recentering time: "The songs and the ideas came from a more slowed-down attention to this particular place, this town, walking from my house to the studio and back every day," Elverum told him. The second album of the pair, to be called Ocean Roar, will be out later this year; Elverum calls it "more challenging and weird and darker and heavier." For now, however, he has given us Clear Moon, an album that makes a vast, cool sanctuary of itself and quietly beckons you in. Inscrutable and transfixing, plainspoken and unknowable, it feels like a collection of secrets Elverum has cupped in his palm to pour directly, and privately, into your ear alone, a rich meditation on the many meanings of the word "home."
"I go on describing this place/ And the way it feels to live and die" is how Elverum summarizes his task on Clear Moon in the album's opening song, "Through the Trees, Pt. 2". The line also neatly serves as any great writer's ultimate mission statement: Your backyard is a gateway to the universe, if you look hard enough. Note the song title's tricky numerology: We seem to be joining Elverum in the middle of an ongoing, possibly endless cataloging task. (Elverum, of course, has a documented fondness for "Pt. 2's".) The song names all have the quality of bullet points in some strange thesis: "The Place Lives", the second song, is followed by "The Place I Live", and it feels like Elverum is using these phrases to draw some obscure distinctions that are very important to him. "If I look/ Or if I don't look/ Clouds are always passing over," he sings on "The Place I Live". It's a statement that can read as perversely comforting or profoundly depressing-- the universe doesn't disappear when I blink, on the one hand, and the universe wouldn't blink if I disappeared, on the other. Elverum's sighed inflection cradles both of these meanings with equal gentleness....full text
Mixtapes“The music-lover experiences, in listening to a concert, a joy of a different order from the joy given by natural sounds, such as the murmur of the brook, the uproar of a torrent, the whistling of the wind in a forest, or the harmonies of human speech based on reason rather than on aesthetics.” –Guillaume Apollinaire, 1913
“I meant all my songs/ Not as a picture of the woods/ But just to remind myself/ That I briefly live.” –Mount Eerie, 2012
It’s not easy to write about Mount Eerie. For one, there’s the music’s iconoclasm. Phil Elverum’s songs do not lend themselves to easy categorization. While each track might momentarily cohere as a form of “folk” or “chamber pop” or “black metal,” they just as quickly sink back into a fog of noise and distortion. And then there’s the music’s majesty. Elverum the lyricist might by preoccupied with the destructive forces of nature, but his sound — its intensity, its dynamism — simply mocks human expression. As a reviewer, you’re not wrestling with the question of whether or not the music is any good. Rather, you’re confronted with the problem of writing about music that seems to demand nothing less than silence. Speaking about the music of Mount Eerie feels like dumping your trash in the woods.
Elverum himself has wrestled with the immediacy of nature and the need for its expression. On his most aggressive albums — Mount Eerie and Wind’s Poem, for example — he has staged this drama via noise and sound. “Let my voice bellow about you,” he sings on “The Universe,” his voice barely rising above the squalling noise, “And let my voice echo out from caves and mines.” Clear Moon, his latest, certainly continues in this vein. As the first part of a two-album cycle, it pits moments of stunned clarity against dreary noise, exploring a tension that is both sonic and existential. And yet one detects here a new sensibility, a new approach that is both more humble and perhaps more honest. On Clear Moon, Elverum comes across less the heroic Viking and more like a lost boatman of suburbia. He’s given up the barren wastes of fire and ice for the more humdrum but no less existential threats of everyday life in the Pacific Northwest. Most notably, Elverum — “struggling sideways” — can no longer maintain a distinction between human life and natural life. He’s relinquished the romantic agon of his earlier work and instead stalks a surreal boundary-land that is neither fallen nor pristine. Throughout, he confronts the messiness of his relation to nature and the very unnaturalness, the sheer artificiality of his work of as an artist. “Dark smoke fills the air,” he sings on the first track, “Some from the fire in my house/ Some from me driving around.” The world of Clear Moon is a world of both “mountains and websites,” a destabilized world, a discontinuous world, for sure, but one world nonetheless; “There is no other world,” Elverum sings wearily, as if finally relinquishing his idealism, “and there has never been.”...full text
AvclubEarlier this year, Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum, writer of the B-side “Get Off the Internet,” committed a genuinely ironic act: He started a Twitter account. Elverum’s tweets are purposefully flavorless, a critique on tweets themselves, but they’re a public sign—perhaps the first of his career—that his experience isn’t limited to mountain vistas and deep stares into the cosmos. His masterful evocations of nature—and conversely, his music’s apparent indifference toward connecting with the world beyond his sensory and existential purview—have been the throughline of his work going back to 2001’s critically beloved The Glow, Pt. 2 and beyond. That hasn’t changed with Clear Moon, a vivid, powerful record driven by droning synthesizers and guitars repurposed as textural rush. But other feelings are beginning to gleam through.
Elverum’s melodies here come as soliloquies untethered from pop structure, though many of the individual songs are stunning: the guitar whirlwind of “The Place Lives,” the hail-spattering “House Shape,” and the oddly Kid A-esque “Lone Bell” offer welcome rhythmic intensity along with their ambient sweep. “Over Dark Water” turns to abrasive guitar feedback and Elverum’s much-used ghostly group vocals; the title track offers the momentary giggle of a vocoder effect between molasses-stirred cymbals. Three interstitial, instrumental tracks, “(Something),” “(Something)” and “(Synthesizer),” offer a break in the action, if not distinctiveness. ...full text
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