Mount Eerie

Clear Moon

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More so than many artists, Phil Elverum's Mount Eerie albums feel like chapters in a larger continuing work, and Clear Moon -- itself the first half of a two-album project released in 2012 -- is no exception. While these songs are somewhat gentler than the evocative black metal assault of Elverum's previous album, the mighty Wind's Poem, Clear Moon feels like it picks up immediately after that album dies down; it's the calm after the storm. The connectedness of Elverum's music extends to the connectedness within his music as well: this time, Mount Eerie explores "a living place," meaning somewhere that people live and the life of that particular place in its own right. It's a concept that unites the themes Elverum has explored since his Microphones days: the juxtaposition of big and small; decay and rebirth; the ordinary and the majestic; and permanence and impermanence. He sets up all of this and more in the epic opener "Through the Trees, Pt. 2," where he wonders as he wanders, taking in everything from mountains to websites, "just to remind myself that I briefly live," as the track rolls out like an unfurling landscape. Hints of Wind's Poem's heaviness resurface from time to time, as on "The Place Lives," but Clear Moon's dominant motifs are insistently strummed acoustic guitars and digitally pristine synths, which evoke Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks soundtrack on the cloud-gazing "The Place I Live" and imbue it with a hypnotic urgency. Indeed, many of the album's highlights are its most reflective moments. "Lone Bell"'s delicately churning guitars and surprising brass capture a "dissipating dreamworld" and reaffirm how gifted Elverum is at making his words evoke his music and vice versa. Later, the gorgeous "Clear Moon" is even more hushed, with distant, tumbling drums and trembling synths and treated vocals conveying a mood of great, if mysterious, importance. As always, there is a fascinating mix of literal and abstract in Mount Eerie's music: on "Over Dark Water," Elverum pairs Wind's Poem-esque crushing guitars with choral vocals (Clear Moon wasn't recorded in a desanctified church for nothing), then follows the song with an interlude of chirping birds and synths doing their best impersonation of a church organ. Indeed, Clear Moon is one of Mount Eerie's more open-ended albums in a while, and even if its subtle musings aren't quite as immediately stunning as Wind's Poem's brutal beauty was, Elverum's meditation on the fact that life goes on within you and without you is thoughtful and thorough in a way few other songwriters could manage.

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