Sonic Treatment: Mount Eerie transforms natural landscape into an aural environment
By Peter Hernandez
Mount Eerie “Clear Moon”
P.W. Elverum & Sun Records & Books, 2012
Phil Elverum has found himself in the present with his recent release, “Clear Moon.”
There is an immediate recollection of his early 2000′s release “It Was Hot, We Stayed In the Water” in just the first minute of his recent release as Mount Eerie, but he has taken on a different persona that has replaced emotion with existentialism while remaining true to natural imagery.
Elverum has embarked on projects with the intention of creating a sonic replication of a physical space. “White Stag” was a representation of the historic White Stag building in old town Porland, Or. In “Ocean Sings,” Elverum takes listeners to a natural landscape ridden with fog, wind, and a distant moon with this release, which is also far more serene than his other recent releases like “Wind’s Poem” or “Ocean Roar.”
Its immediate gentle strumming, which doubles with the introduction of a second guitar track, recalls “The Pull” from “It Was Hot,” but this time absent of a scaling noise rock outro, and this time with a haunting organ track paired with a distant, atmospheric electric guitar. He sets himself in a parking lot or at the edge of a forest, always explicating the feeling of being in a place, and belonging there.
The overarching concept of “Clear Moon” is in finding oneself beneath climate, space, and change, with special attention to the present and sensory elements associated with those states. But Elverum also finds himself in today and fabricates a voice for the bleak decline of the natural landscape, heard throughout the album but especially in “The Place I Live.”
There, of course, is a persistent organ that rides through some songs, like “House Shape” or “Yawning Sky”–which is inarguably characteristic of Elverum–but in this release, the effect reinforces the transfixion of the present moment, and the conjured image of the landscape he aims to illustrate with his music.
He also creates a fantastic sonic texture in “Lone Bell,” which unheedingly submerges the listener in a flurry of piano and cymbals. Saxophone makes a blatant introduction and the sound suddenly compounds into a series of trumpets and trombone with an ever-growing and desperate strumming of guitar. The effect is likened to being consumed by fog, or the feeling of wind and mist among the night.
“Clear Moon” is a soft record without sounding boring or too easy. It is an audial accompaniment to a place that Elverum has introduced in previous releases, but never with such prolonged deliberation or drawn-out representation. This release attests to the complexity of the natural environment and its ability to be replicated in a long-playing format.
Follow Peter Hernandez on Twitter @milesof.