Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lost Wisdom - Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron & Fred Squire

Lost Wisdom
Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron & Fred Squire
P. W. Elverum & Sun Ltd.  ELV019

This album comes packaged in the large double sided poster depicted above.  There is no cardboard record sleeve, just a paper sleeve for the record (which is pressed on clear vinyl) and a plastic album sleeve for the entire package.  I bought it from the Elverum website.  I could have saved the price of shipping by buying it from Phil Elverum himself when I saw Mount Eerie and Key Losers in concert a couple of months ago, but I foolishly didn't think to bring much money with me.  Elverum showed up at the merch table with a big crate full of vinyl from Mount Eerie and his previous band, the Microphones, but I spent my money on the Key Losers album instead, partly because Katy Davidson was throwing in her previous album as well but also because Davidson was open and friendly and Elverum was sitting at the merch table looking like a guy waiting to see the dentist.  Anyway it was a really impressive show.  As a performer Elverum is as taciturn as they come, but the music was so compelling and powerful that I didn't mind.  Elverum played what I think was a vibraphone as well as an enormous gong supported by Nicholas Krgovich on keyboards and a woman whose name I did not catch also playing keyboards.  The music was not rock nor was it folk, it was a mesmerizing, droning almost abstract sort of music that defies easy description.  It sounded quite different from the Microphones which is where I first encountered Elverum.  I liked the Microphones, but not so much that I noticed right away when Elverum abandoned that name and started using Mount Eerie for the name of his musical efforts.  This particular album sounds more like the Microphones than Elverum's current music.  It has mostly an ethereal folky sound.  Julie Doiron (formerly of the beloved indie band Eric's Trip) shares vocals with Elverum and Fred Squire plays guitar.  I don't have a problem with Elverum's voice, but I like Doiron's better and find her voice a lot warmer as well.  I was reminded of Elverum's collaborations with Khaela Maricich and Mirah back in the Microphones days.  Doiron brightens up the music considerably.  This is particularly noticeable on their duet "Lost Wisdom" which is my favorite song on the album.  It is a haunting and poetic song that reminds me of early Leonard Cohen and I find that the interplay between Elverum's low key vocal and Doiron's more emotional singing very alluring.  "Voice In Headphones" features Elverum singing the verses while Doiron sings the chorus with the chorus overlapping the verses in a contrapuntal arrangement.  It sounds gorgeous.  "You Swan, Go On" is an exquisite song of lost love and personal growth mostly sung by Elverum.  Doiron takes the lead on "Who?" which is about loss.  Side two opens with "Flaming Home" which is a bleak song depicting a deteriorating relationship sung beautifully as a duet.  "What?" echoes "Who?" in its structure but whereas the former song examines the emptiness left behind by lost love in a series of questions, this song asks a series of questions describing the sensory overload of one in love and dazzled by one's partner.  "If We Knew..." is sung by Doiron and features a series of epigrams about fear and uncertainty.  It is another one of my favorite songs on the record, I find the guitar playing on this track to among the loveliest on the album.  "With My Hands Out" displays Elverum's gift for writing enigmatic lyrics with striking imagery that create strong impressions in the listener.  "O My Heart" features some more memorable guitar work and a delicate duet vocal singing metaphorical lyrics that might be kind of corny in less sensitive hands, but instead it is one of the best songs on the record, very moving.  The album concludes gloomily with "Grave Robbers" which has dark lyrics and creepy imagery although the music is light and the vocal duet is as pretty as any on the record.  The music on this album has a consistent tone and mood, but it is not monotonous and I find it unfailingly engaging.  It is ideally suited for moments when you are feeling introspective and thoughtful, rainy afternoons or late at night sipping a glass of wine.  Elverum is an extremely intelligent songwriter and his music is challenging and adventurous, I've never heard a boring or lackluster piece of music from him.  Recommended for Nick Drake fans whose favorite album is "Pink Moon."

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