Music

Fucking in the Streets

Wind's Poem Doesn't Blow

Fucking in the Streets

Wheat Wurtzburger

Phil Elverum has been performing the songs from his new Mount Eerie album, Wind's Poem, for the better part of the past year, and I have to say, the stuff wasn't really sweeping me away. Sometimes, as at Fremont Abbey in March, he performed the songs solo, accompanying his distinctive, slightly mumbly singing on electric guitar, punctuating his lyrics with low, growling feedback. More recently, as at Neumos in June, Elverum has performed the material backed by a live band featuring thundering, blast-beating dual drummers.

There was nothing wrong with these performances, and the electrified treatment—with its dark drones, relatively heavy riffing (and matching slow-motion head banging), and ringing open chords—is as impressive as any other guise with which Elverum has dressed his songs. (Elverum has lately spoken of seeking an organic or "wooden" black-metal sound.) I just wasn't hearing as much from the songs themselves.

So it was a quiet, welcome revelation this weekend to spend some time with the new album and hear what I'd somehow been missing at those shows.

The album begins with a crescendo of drums and guitar, a blast of sound that within seconds, and without actually changing, becomes an almost ambient hum. Like many doom/drone metallers, Elverum uses distortion, distilled riffing, and blanketing percussion to generate texture more than dynamics—and to effectively evoke the howl of a harsh wind. But even when the instruments around him are roaring, Elverum's songs are deliberately paced and his singing hushed, creating an audio image that reiterates his oldest themes: Here's Nature/the Universe/the Wind, huge and overwhelming, and here's Phil, small and quiet and straining. Elverum employs this approach to great effect on "Wind's Dark Poem," "The Hidden Stone," and "The Mouth of Sky."

Other tracks are more conventionally placid, eschewing the noisy atmospherics and metal affectations for soft, glassy keyboard padding. The slow-stirring "Through the Trees" is an extended church-organ reverie. "Between Two Mysteries" interpolates the melody and even the chilly synth sound from Angelo Badalamenti's theme for Twin Peaks. The chorus of "Ancient Questions," with Elverum singing "Nothing is nothing/Everything is fleeting" over rippling guitar, piano, and marimba, almost echoes the more uplifted bridge about "bass drums at dances" from earlier Mount Eerie track "We're Here to Listen."

The album climaxes with a pair of songs that incorporate both modes. "Something" begins with unsettling, stereo-lurching static, all bass thrum and broken cymbal crashes, before giving way to a faint music-box melody. On "Lost Wisdom Pt. 2," a massive din blows out into muted, shuddering tones.

Perhaps what most separates these songs from his earlier work, and what might make them less endearing to some listeners, is that while Elverum has always looked into the proverbial dark night with wonder and dread, he formerly managed to find some beacon of solace there. Here, that moon shines only in his mind. Here, he sings "My Heart Is Not at Peace" and sounds genuinely troubled and lost. recommended

 

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