Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Song Islands Vol. 2 - Mount Eerie

Song Islands Vol. 2

Mount Eerie
Phil Elverum and Sun, Ltd.

SCQ Rating: 64%

Seriously?” Yep, that’s how I first responded to the very existence of Song Islands Vol. 2. Don’t get me wrong: Phil Elverum’s discography displays, if nothing else, how ‘prolific’ should be done, by assembling projects borne of personal heritage (Mount Eerie’s childhood fantasy) or social circumstance (Lost Wisdom's communal sessions with Julie Doiron and Fred Squire) and churning out sudden explorations into vastly new sonic terrains (Wind Poem’s metal affinity). And my disbelief over Song Islands Vol. 2’s premise doesn’t even rest at the seeming impossibility of gathering spare parts from those wildly different releases and cramming them together... although, let’s face it, that’s a concern. My disbelief instead stems from Elverum’s chosen tracklisting, which features an ungodly thirty-one songs all courtesy of someone who has already put out seven releases since 2008.

And then ‘Where?’ begins, a half-finished song full of Elverum’s familiar tape-hiss and multi-tracked murmurings, and I’ve already forgiven him. Despite Mount Eerie’s tireless parade of EPs, LPs, CD-books and 12”s over the past half-decade, the magic that first instilled early Microphones work with his personal, lo-fi oddness still sounds fresh today. Even amid the India-indebted ‘The Intimacy’ which overlays eastern rhythms with a beautiful collage of harmonics, the first, er, one-sixth of Song Islands speaks like an average (meaning peculiar) Mount Eerie release. Maintaining any sort of LP arch goes out the window with the trash-thrash of ‘instrumental’ and the isolated vocal-tracks from Lost Wisdom’s ‘Voice In Headphones’ and, although each of these leftovers offer a glimpse into moments of Mount Eerie’s back-catalog, there’s enough quality material here to warrant a thematically tighter collection of fifteen key tracks. The improvised strums of ‘Cold Mountain’s Song #286’ evoke Elverum’s rustic sensibilities so well, it could’ve tied swimmingly into ‘Grave Robbers’ or stretched into the more adventurous ‘Calf In Pasture’.

Yes, it’s difficult to resist the urge to re-sequence and, in a way, validate these many highlights from Elverum’s intended hodgepodge. Playing out like a restless retread of ideas that hovered above, if never settling upon, Mount Eerie’s previous entries, these seventy-odd minutes deliver the intermittent case of déjà vu here and there. Elverum’s aura may swerve this raw bulk of recordings from feeling like a gutter-scraping cash-grap but Song Islands Vol. 2 would’ve been far more approachable had Elverum not treated it like a waste-bin for everything lying around.

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