Phil Elverum has been making music since 1997 and has 9 albums already under his belt. He is perhaps best known for acclaimed album The Glow Pt. 2 under his previous moniker of The Microphones which gained him a small but dedicated fan base. Clear Moon is the first in a duo of albums to be released by Elverum’s Mount Eerie project this year and the second, Ocean Roar, is due in October. Both records have been said to be a continuation of Elverum’s attempt to document his hometown and the surrounding area whilst also dealing with more abstract philosophical and natural themes which have been present in his work since the beginning.
Opening with “Through the Trees Pt 2” we hear the familiar sounds of Elverum’s hushed voice over the top of fuzzy guitars, drums and organ. He sings out over the music - “there is no other world and there never has been”. Elverum often writes these kind of lyrics – dark, philosophical, bordering on supernatural. There’s another one of these before the song is done - “raw impermanence echoes in the sky”. “The Place Lives” is a much louder affair; the vocals are buried slightly under thrashing guitars and heavy reverb creating the haunting atmosphere that’s so integral to the Mount Eerie sound.
Elverum works with a variety of sounds on this record. Shifting between classical, more orchestral pieces and simple guitar based tracks the result is always dark and, in the case of “The Place I Live”, for example - which includes a bassoon and a double bass - fit to soundtrack cult TV hit Twin Peaks. Flirting between the quiet, soft melodies of “Yawning Sky” and the thunderous sounds of Lone Bell this proves to be an exciting first part of the pair of albums Elverum plans to release. The title track is the longest and is without a doubt the masterpiece of the entire LP. Featuring crashing doom-laden drums and echoing vocals, Elverum repeats “imagined clear moon in the black sky”. The whole song sounds so apocalyptic it’s impossible not to picture the blackened sky that’s referenced. The album ends with “(synthesizer)” which sounds angelic in comparison to Clear Moon. If the title track represents the end of the world then “(synthesizer)” its rebirth. Purely instrumental, its heavenly sounds leave the door wide open for October’s Ocean Roar.
Clear Moon, for me, is represents everything I like about Elverum and his music. It’s like watching a storm build up, unleash its power before it ends, the sun breaks through the clouds and a sense of calm settles over the landscape. After the slight chaos of his last record Wind’s Poem this LP sees Elverum return to top form and produce something extremely impressive.
MOUNT EERIE – CLEAR MOON
My initial review of this record sums up my feelings towards it in depth; Clear Moon sees Phil Elverum continue his 15 year streak of creating beautiful yet apocalyptic masterpieces. As well as being one of my favourites from the first half of the year this album has secured a place in my heart as one of my favourites from Elverum’s growing catalogue. It’s an extremely cohesive release, full of those familiar themes of isolation, the beauty and power of nature and philosophical wonder that fans of Phil’s work have grown to expect and admire.
REGINA SPEKTOR – WHAT WE SAW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS
I have been a massive fan of Spektor’s work for going on eight years and despite her increased popularity amongst teenage girls, I still enjoy attending her shows simply because, as a self confessed fangirl, I get a thrill from seeing her perform things that very few people know (see: “Silly Eye Color Generalizations”). I must admit I didn’t pounce on this album with the same excitement I have done with previous Spektor records, in fact it took me weeks before I even got around to listening to it. However, when I did I remembered what is so special and unique about Regina Spektor. She mixes her bizarre lyrics with the interesting noises she creates with both the piano and her phenomenal voice and the end product is nothing but spectacular. There are some old songs on this LP that have been given a whole new flavour whilst new tracks hark back to the sounds of Soviet Kitsch and Songs and it’s because of this that Regina fails to disappoint. Again.
MOTION SICKNESS OF TIME TRAVEL – MOTION SICKNESS OF TIME TRAVEL
It’s difficult to get to grips with the fact that Motion Sickness of Time Travel is a one person project. That one person is Rachel Evans and she’s been releasing music under this name since 2008. The reason it’s difficult to grasp this idea is because the music Evans produces sounds so vast. She creates sweeping soundscapes that seem to flow perfectly for the entire 90 minutes. Evans comes at the concept of ambient and drone music from a completely different angle, giving an almost ethereal atmosphere to this record. Though the vocals can be compared to the likes of Grouper and Julianna Barwick the overall sound and aesthetic of this record is much more futuristic, something that is even reflected in the project’s name. Whilst some might criticise the length of the tracks I find that Evans’ use of sound, from ripples to chirps, is what makes the tracks on this LP consistently interesting and memorable.
ADVANCE BASE – A SHUT-IN’S PRAYER
Owen Ashworth is an underrated and under-appreciated lyricist. Previously working under the moniker of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone Ashworth gained a small but loyal fanbase and released a number of incredible records, my favourite of which is 2006’s Etiquette. A Shut-In’s Prayer, released under his new name of Advance Base, is a beautifully simple record. Although Ashworth has kept the basic Casiotone style both musically and lyrically this record has a different feel to it; it’s lighter, more tender. His soft vocals, occasionally backed with a single female voice, are comforting. The instrumentation are also a key sign of the change in Ashworth’s music, although the well accustomed element of nostalgia is stronger, and more beautiful, than ever.