To fill many of you in on the change, (God knows I missed it), Mount Eerie is and has been for some time now the working title for ’90s secondhand lo-fi musician Phil Elverum. Correct, The Microphones are no longer extant. It’s a damn shame, too. They were considerably less on-the-cusp-of-brilliance than other stablemates such as GBV or Sebadoh in their four track years, but hell, anyone who has worked so diligently with Calvin Johnson of K Records automatically deserves significance. If it is even possible to be cliché about something that obscure, that possibility would lend itself to the general agreement over the band’s The Glow Pt. 2 belonging in the annals of low fidelity rock for its tape-hissy, sprawling wonderment. That era for Elverum is over, but being the principal crafter of songs, is this really a damn shame, or was he just getting bored of the old title? His newest release under the Mount Eerie moniker, Clear Moon, can answer that question.
Listen to “House Shape”
If you wanted to take a night off of sleeping and undergoing dream sequences, Clear Moon put on repeat for hours would make for an accurate substitute. This is not exemplary of most dreamlike miscellany that represent some gleeful state of euphoria or an often construed psychedelic voicing. Nay, this album is dreamlike in the realistic sense. Many of Elverum’s compositions here are static at base and yet somehow expansive and sprawling in nature. Verses and refrains aren’t done without, at least not visibly, but Phil’s lyrics meld so well together that it flows as if there is no noticeable contour between what would be labeled as either a “verse” or “refrain” section. “Through The Trees Pt. 2″ holds your hand as you descend into the beautiful haze. Starting off with Elverum’s shy vocals and a guitar that sounds unsure of its emotion, a wave of cymbals and keyboards come into play, aiding Elverum’s guitar in finding its mood; that mood being one of both frightful awareness and a willing obedience to follow this darkness, hoping to find some answer to its mysticism.
“The Place I Live” moves at such a trudging pace that you can practically hear its sound become archaic. It is incredibly calm and so on-the-fence about whether it should be a major or minor affair that it may as well be written in the key of confusion, which once again reinforces the overall dreamy state of Clear Moon. Unsureness and intrigue is bountiful, and after the trip is through, you’re left wondering about where it took you. A marvelously standout track is “Lone Bell”. The dribbling, soft-at-the-edges bass from Tortoise‘s “Djed” seems to have returned. This song is carried by its bass lines from start to finish, Elverum’s vocals still a quaint, melancholy garnish to the collective work. The titular dirge-epic sounds like a reincarnation of Carmen Daye and Steve Baker‘s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. It does not change shape or pattern for an entire seven minutes, allowing Phil to remark at that night sky that brought and inspired him to this point. Interestingly enough, he harmonizes with himself in this song with what can only be Autotune. He’s come a long way from his Microphones days of lo-fi. “Yawning Sky” is the perfect denouement to the previous barrage of swirl, as he continues to rattle on about mesmerization from a weakened, tired standpoint while the instrumentation decays around him.
Some may think of Clear Moon as less-than-favorable for its monotony and fixation on night’s mystique as a muse. In all honesty, Phil has released what many would call a conceptual album. Halfway through the LP, you will have heard so much about all the things that comprise a clear, airy witching hour and the feelings that it evokes, that it adapts a contriteness. Sure, but then again, it’s a concept album. What is an essay that doesn’t bolster its thesis statement? Phil does not talk your head off about the subject, and besides, he’s rather poetic and soothingly listenable through and throughout.
Clear Moon is the first I have heard since Elverum has shifted from the Microphones phase of his musical career. Lo-fi is now hi-fi and Mount Eerie is still as compounding and imaginative as his former project; of which there are still inklings present. Broadly stated, this gave me the idea of what The Microphones would sound like if they were super-mature. With age, Elverum has become just that. And there is more to look forward to: September will see the release of Ocean Roar, the second of Mount Eerie’s 2012 catalogue. Check back in September for details on that.