Mount Eerie: Black Wooden Ceiling Opening EP
Emerging as The Microphones in the late '90s, Phil Elvrum built a cult following, common amongst K Records artists. Once the millennium turned, he created, arguably, two of the greatest records in recent history: 2000's It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water and 2001's The Glow Pt. 2. The albums were covered with folk, but were bleeding with stereo noise and were masterpieces in terms of lo-fi production. After a few more releases, including his brilliant concept record, Mount Eerie, Elvrum ditched the moniker, The Microphones, and continued on as Mount Eerie. He released several albums since changing his title, including 2005's overlooked No Flashlight. Somewhere along the line, he changed his actual name to Phil Elverum. Now, as Phil Elverum and Mount Eerie, we are given the Black Wooden Ceiling Opening EP.
So, there's your brief background, but let's ask the burning questions that rack every Elverum fans brain. Where the hell does this guy come from? Where does he come up with this stuff?
Well, the answer to the former question may answer the latter. Elverum hails from Anacortes, WA, which is at the tip of Fidalgo Island, northwest of Seattle. It is a rural, yet industrial town that exudes the nautical, yet forestal aura associated with the Puget Sound. It has an end-of-the-road atmosphere, but is a jumping-off point for the San Juan Islands. It has a hometown feel, but attracts a decent amount of tourism. It is full of binaries that seemingly contradict each other, but have a way of blending to form something unique and very appealing. This is precisely what defines Phil Elverum's music. At its core, Elverum's work is derived from folk and pop music, simple and accessible in melody, but the layers on top of his work are painted, sliced, and hammered with experimental virtues. His songs have a lo-fi sound, but have a glaze of pristine production on the surface. His voice is boyish and charming, but his lyrics are incredibly profound. These are the traits of Phil Elvrum and Phil Elverum, The Microphones and Mount Eerie. Like those of Anacortes, these traits conflict on paper, but somehow seem to mesh when brought together.
On the Black Wooden Ceiling Opening EP, these traits are omnipresent, but rather than having a core of folk and pop music, Elverum bases these songs around rock music, which is a delightful change. Loud, fuzzed guitars and a sea of metal-punk drums swell and crash on these jagged rock shores. Elverum's lyrics are, at times, quite dark, particularly in opener, "Appetite." He sings of a satiated bear, but one whose appetite quickly boils up. "Are you coming over for dinner? Are you coming over for blood?" he asks, as guitars redline. It is a reference to consumption, our own appetites never satisfied, so our hunger keeps us wanting more. "It was my appetite, curious and wide-eyed. Two question marks and then the door blew down."
"Domesticated Dog" sounds like an old Pavement song and Elverum's voice even resembles Stephen Malkmus'. This is the lightest song on the EP with its '90s rock guitar ruffs and drum beats. "In Moonlight" begins light and is very, very beautiful as Elverum sings, "I will find you," in his boyish croon. But, then the hardness and eeriness return as Elverum is pummeled by loud guitars and drums singing, "Where I find will be found easily when I'm not looking for it, without looking for the morning in the sunset." Elverum is intensely philosophical here, referring to his own quest for answers, but such a philosphy is universally applicable. We'll most likely stumble upon the answers we seek. Sunlight may guide us, but we have no control over that. So, while we're in the moonlight, we'll have to walk blindly.
The EP is packaged with an 11-song live recording that aptly represents a Mount Eerie live experience – intimate and interesting. Black Wooden Ceiling Opening is available through P. W. Elverum and Sun.
- Caleb Morairty
I'm Losing My Edge