Sunday, December 20, 2009

Album Of The Week: Mount Eerie- Wind's Poem

Often during the course of a week, I'll get ideas for novels I want to write, and the plot, characters, and 'feel' of what I see them as is so vivid and clear to me that it really does seem like a vision I'm being given. However, it's one thing to have visions and extremely specific ideas for a work, and another thing entirely to do them. Filmmakers like David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino are visionary in the sense that the sort of art they make is uncompromising and demanding but at the same time like nothing you've ever seen before. It is "visionary" stuff through and through, since they're able to take what exists in their minds and make it real.

This is how I think of Wind's Poem, and Phil Elvrum's music in general. You always get the sense that the entire work existed in his head, and albums are his attempt to put physical form to these visions. Moreover, even at his most consistent and accessible, Elvrum's music is still uncompromising and demanding. Wind's Poem roars to life immediately with 'Wind's Dark Poem', one of the tracks on the album that show the loud side of Mount Eerie. Most reviews have dubbed this Elvrum's "black metal album", but go back to the excellent The Glow, Pt. 2 under his Microphones alias and skip to the songs 'Something Contd.', 'I Want To Be Cold', and Samurai Sword.' This style of music has always been a part of his style, and anyway, I don't know if it really sounds like true black metal. It's more just like really loud guitars: loud to the point of distortion without any need for effects pedals, if that makes sense. Of course just to let you know that he's not to be pidgeonholed, he follows this opening bludgeon with the eleven-and-a-half minute long 'Through The Trees', a languid organ drone of a song.

I have to admit that I don't actually follow Elvrum's career at all, so all the singles, EPs, compilations, and albums he's done are beyond my body of knowledge. But I can say with certainty that Wind's Poem is a clear continuation of the lyrical themes from The Glow, Pt. 2, namely his fascination with nature imagery, a constant sense of a dark foreboding atmosphere, and extreme attention to detail. Most artists would blindly start to yell or scream to match the louder songs on this album, but Elvrum still sticks to his distinctive and calmly emotional voice. He uses it as a detail as much as the centerpiece of Wind's Poem, which is something a lot of artists would find unthinkable.

Wind's Poem is an experience unlike any I've had all year with music. It's like going for a walk on a late Fall night during a storm, the wind and rain alternately pummeling and gentle. Wind's Poem may be remembered as a "black metal" album, but it's all filtered through Elvrum's lo-fi indie rock and singer/songwriter lenses. To put it another way, I don't think of The Glow, Pt. 2 as his "drone" album even though there are some examples of that genre on it. It isn't solely one style or another, just as this one isn't, either. Anyway, Wind's Poem is just as demanding and uncompromising for its production as much as its "black metal." You really, really need to listen to it on headphones; moreover, you need to listen to it in one sitting. This is neither an album to rush through, to skip to your favorite songs while driving, nor is it an accessible, digestible listen. When he sings "I'm the river/I am the ocean of changing shape/I bring bodies/in the void you heard my name" on 'Wind Speaks', you're only about halfway through the album. It feels like much more time has passed, however, because Wind's Poem is dense, both with width and breadth. 'Summons' follows next, all eerie guitar moans and Elvrum's naked voice. You could break the album down into these more reflective moments and the roaring loud stuff, but perhaps it's better to look at it as light or heavy wind. As if to underscore this dual nature of wind and the album's obsession with it, 'The Mouth Of Sky' comes right after 'Summons' and sounds like one of the epic peaks of a post-rock band without all the patient crescendos that normally lead up to them.

Whether you love or hate the films of David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino, you at least have to admit that what they make is very unique, purely their's from conception to end product, and not like anything else that's out there. This's exactly how I feel about Phil Elvrum's music. It's definitely not for everyone, and Wind's Poem in particular is a dense and visionary work that is among 2009's best albums. You'll need some headphones and the right mood to get it, but once you do, Wind's Poem will prove itself worthy of all the effort and patience.

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