|Mount Eerie — Now Only (March 16, 2018)|
Mount Eerie — Now Only (March 16, 2018) ? Mount Eerie’s second grief~stricken album in a year is about “the transition from a living person into a memory,” its creator says.
Location: Anacortes, Washington
Album release: March 16, 2018
1. Tintin In Tibet 4:37
2. Distortion 10:58
3. Now Only 5:54
4. Earth 5:52
5. Two Paintings By Nikolai Astrup 9:22
6. Crow pt. 2 6:50
by Sam Sodomsky, Mar 16, 2018 / Score: 8.5
? The expansive companion album to last year’s A Crow Looked At Me is no less a marvel. Phil Elverum’s latest is part memoir and part magnum opus, sung softly and with wonder.
hil Elverum’s music feels like a conversation. His songs move at a relaxed pace, quiet and hypnotic, sung in a boyish voice amid passages of near~silence, as if to induce private reflection from both artist and listener. But Elverum also makes records that are in conversation with each other: Lyric sheets come with annotations, songs beget sequels, album titles become band names. It’s a literary tendency that’s made his large body of work, from his lo~fi recordings as the Microphones through his later work as Mount Eerie, a deep and rewarding refuge that he’s perpetuated by occasionally breaking the fourth wall. In his self~published diary he released in 2008, he introduced himself, “Hello. I am a self~mythologizer.”
? This mythology — which involves his hometown of Anacortes, Washington; the shape of the universe; the wisdom of the natural world; and Elverum’s (and, by extension, everyone’s) place in it all — came to an abrupt end last year. He composed his 13th album, A Crow Looked at Me, in a dark fog after the death of his wife, Geneviève, with whom he had a daughter. It wasn’t the first time Elverum’s work had been starkly autobiographical, but it was the first time that it didn’t seem to be in service of a larger poetic vision. “There is nothing to learn,” he sang in a pivotal moment. “Her absence is a scream/Saying nothing.”
? Almost exactly one year after that release comes Now Only, an expansive and embattled companion album. The songs on Crow were defined by solitude — thoughts spiraling in the absence of somebody to receive them. By comparison, Now Only is downright crowded with ideas, even if one person remains at the center of everything. Its six tracks are long and knotty, comprising multiple movements and following non~linear narratives. In the title track, Elverum reflects on touring his most vulnerable work, faced with live audiences and other acts on the road. Released back into society, he lets his mind return to the hospital waiting rooms where he sat waiting for his wife and considers the other people who quietly accompanied him there with their own stories of loss. Elsewhere, he looks at Norwegian art, listens to the black metal band Wolves in the Throne Room, runs into Father John Misty, and watches the news. The world opens up. Sometimes reluctantly and sometimes with new serenity, he finds his footing in it again.
? With that shift, images that felt blurred and distant in Crow’s lingering heatwave come into focus. In crucial moments, we learn about Geneviève prior to her cancer diagnosis. “Tintin in Tibet” depicts her as Elverum’s 22~year~old soulmate — the couple living blissfully as vagabonds, playing shows around the country. Opening with a simple declaration — “I sing to you” — and exploring the implications of each of those simple words, his lyrics sink deeper and deeper into his memory, like water through soil. Where Elverum once sought Geneviève in abstract forms, she appears to him as herself here. When Elverum turns to these thoughts, the music finds balance and momentum.
? Another comforting reappearance on Now Only is the analog sprawl of earlier Mount Eerie records. While the music on Crow was built from skeletal, often dissonant acoustic guitar progressions, Now Only recalls his previous, more atmospheric work. The ringing drones throughout “Distortion” sound like fallout from his ambient black metal experiments; “Earth” stomps with a grungy drawl that recalls the garage~folk bluster of 2008’s Black Wooden Ceiling Opening. The climactic “Two Paintings by Nikolai Astrup” even begins with a direct lyrical callback to an earlier song. “I know no one,” he sings, repeating the title of a 2005 track and assessing how that mantra applies to his life now.
? These references beckon to a younger, simpler version of Mount Eerie, but they also become a grounding force for the record. Now Only feels as much like an epilogue to Crow as it does a dark forest road back to the wide~open landscapes of his earlier records — a search for meaning, for permanence and continuity. For a collection of such complex songs, it flows with seamless intricacy, one thought leading into the next, even when they seem at war with each other. At times, it suggests a dismissal of Crow’s magical nihilism for something more earthbound, demanding logic in the face of destruction. “I sing to you,” Elverum concludes one song. In the opening lines of the next, he clarifies, “But I don’t believe in ghosts or anything.”
? The tension in Elverum’s songwriting lives in the space between those ideas. His questions are plentiful (“Who am I talking to?” “What am I saying?”), and the ground he covers to answer them is vast. While Crow moved chronologically through a brief but intense period of time, Now Only tells a longer story, stretching back to his childhood. During “Distortion,” one of Elverum’s most ambitious compositions to date, he describes an early encounter with death, reciting a passage from the Bible at a funeral but finding more resonance in the open casket. In “Earth,” he lets a rare, friendly euphemism slip into his writing: “You’re sleeping out in the yard now,” he sings. Then, as a means of self~correction, he describes what is actually happening to her body, bone by bone, in the yard where she’s buried.
? Despite that verse — his most harrowing and physical description of decay — Now Only isn’t as easily categorized as its predecessor. These songs arrive with such urgency, such purpose, that it feels all~encompassing: part~memoir, part magnum opus. His songs play like they’re being conjured in real time, surging with a driving intensity that feels more like post~rock than folk and puts his work at odds with similarly diaristic epics from peers like Mark Kozelek or Sufjan Stevens. In “Distortion,” Elverum finds a foil in late~in~life Jack Kerouac. Accompanying himself with persistent, low harmonies, he sings about the aging writer “taking cowardly refuge in his self~mythology” as an excuse to shirk his responsibilities as a parent and an artist. Elverum allows himself no such escape, even if he’s increasingly aware of the limitations of his project.
? “These waves hit less frequently/They thin and then they are gone,” he sings in “Now Only.” Elverum is not describing an end to mourning — a flat, constant thing. Instead, he’s addressing the inevitable side effect of writing these first~hand accounts, stories that can only be repeated so many times before they lead to a different kind of death. The record closes with its bleakest, barest track, “Crow Pt. 2.” After listing a series of symbolic incarnations of Geneviève, Elverum admits in a broken sigh, “I don’t see you anywhere.” The song doesn’t stop there, though — it echoes beyond. Death is real, but it isn’t necessarily the end. ? https://pitchfork.com/
By Stephen Mayne / Mar 15, 2018
? Under his Mount Eerie guise, Phil Elverum released one of the most powerful albums of recent times, A Crow Looked at Me, laying bare unmanageable grief following the loss of his wife Geneviève to cancer.
? A year on and Now Only mines the same emotions, embracing sadness, maybe purging the pain, perhaps simply documenting it. His lyrical style is as affecting as ever, building simple line on top of simple line until a complete and devastating story emerges.
? But while thematically this might be the same, time hasn’t stood still. He’s no longer just writing about his loss; he’s also writing about writing about the death of his wife. The title track finds Elverum singing his death songs to drunk young people at festivals, before discussing songwriting with Father John Misty and Weyes Blood. The same track even throws in an unlikely rallying cry for moving on.
? That’s the big change here: Now Only finds Elverum still swimming in grief, but he’s been washed to the borders of his pain, the intensity ebbing. Now he sings to keep her memory going, no longer struck in the lost scream driving his last record.
? The signs of forward momentum are present in his decision to beef up the simple acoustic guitar that drove his outpouring in 2017. While it remains the primary sound, space is found for electric guitars, or on the 11~minute meandering epic “Distortion,” a carefully deployed piano.
? There are only six tracks this time out, some of them long, all of them weaving between despair and inner reflection, seeking a route out of the purgatory he’s trapped in. It’s part two of a painfully vivid window into the grieving process, and like part one, it’s brilliant. (www.pwelverumandsun.com) ? http://www.undertheradarmag.com/
SPENCER KORNHABER MAR 14, 2018
? A recent article at New Zealand’s The Spinoff compared Mount Eerie’s 2017 album, A Crow Looked at Me, to, among other things, the Holocaust poetry of Primo Levi. The headline called Mount Eerie “the saddest musician in the world,” leading Phil Elverum, who records as Mount Eerie, to tweet: “I guess I’m the saddest in the world? Yeah maybe.”
? Elverum’s wife, the artist Geneviève Castrée, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four months after the birth of their only child. She died about a year later, in July 2016. Elverum, a cult~beloved folk musician best known for his work under the name The Microphones, processed his grief in song, recording in the bedroom he and Castrée shared. The resulting album was unflinching and hyper~literal, hypnotic and lo~fi, and deeply hostile to clichés about death: “I don’t want to learn anything from this,” he sang. It ended up one of the landmark albums of 2017, featuring on a number of critics’ annual lists, including my own.
? A year later, he is back with a sequel, Now Only, that delves further into loss but with a slightly expanded musical and thematic scope. Whether over atonal guitars or bright patches of country pop, he asks questions about how to carry on, and about the utility of art. The word stunning is overused in record reviews, but Elverum’s intensity — the rawness of his stories, and the synaptic way he connects seemingly disparate observations — is actually immobilizing. Yet it’s not an experience of total sadness, featuring flashes of irony, hope, and love. ? https://www.theatlantic.com/
|Mount Eerie — Now Only (March 16, 2018)|