P.W. Elverum & Sun Ltd.
SCQ Rating: 75%
At a glimpse, Phil Elverum’s muse, particularly under his Mount Eerie guise, seems largely focused on one mountainous patch of the Pacific Northwest. Yet surprisingly, like an aging love letter to Anacortes, Washington, the last decade of Elverum’s career has adventured a series of artistic maneuvers that only the casual fan could consider genre-exercises. However distinctly the metal leanings of Wind’s Poem might grate against Lost Wisdom’s pared down folk, they all speak a language of isolation and lay out a treacherous sonic geography. This year’s Clear Moon not only relieves any fears brought on by 2010’s patchy odds-and-sods opus Song Islands Vol 2, it represents a triumph in his perpetual search for identity and home.
Featuring methodical acoustic strumming and deeply sparse percussion, “Through the Trees Pt 2” finds the Mount Eerie trademarks neatly aligned but pitted in a tonal overcast of dull synth-layers rumbling in the background. Narrative-wise, one might imagine Clear Moon unfolding similarly to 2003's Mount Eerie’s tale of a boy journeying toward the peak of his hometown; similarly, “Through the Trees Pt 2” carries a complacent calm that only hints at the desperate times laying in wait. Darkly psychedelic dirges like “The Place Lives” and the terrifying title track sit just past the horizon but the trip is tempered by compositions that keep Elverum an unpredictable songwriter. The rhythmic menacing of “House Shape” keeps the momentum fresh while the bombastic horn presence on “Lone Bell” shimmers with iridescent hope.
A wide-eyed look at the terrifying, looming and beautiful, Clear Moon showcases Phil Elverum’s vehicle in yet another atmospheric setting. It reads as bleak – and, make no mistake, it is – but there’s also something in the way Elverum arranges his darkness that latches onto listeners in a fun way. Those who take comfort in completely inhospitable records will roundly rejoice.