When Phil Elverum released Clear Moon earlier this year, it felt like the album’s pure organic sound almost completely washed away the one-dimensional indie-folk tag that surround him and his Mount Eerie moniker. While still sweeping his guitar, he meandered deeper into his own whispered thoughts, following the trace of hovering synths that radiate over foggy clouds of noise with the glow of the moon shimmering through. Elverum’s focus on nature and expanse added yet another shade of his own enigma to the record, dabbling his music with a clattering black metal downpour, ethereal ambient mist and lo-fi droning while painting muzzy pictures of blurred textures.
As for Clear Moon, his sonic canvas thrived on the mysticism of nature, on the beauty of a luminous hazy sky at the crack of dawn painted in light colors and hypnotic contentment. But Elverum couldn’t leave it at that. He still needed to shape the darkness, the clouds that bring raging thunder and not just lenient drizzle. Now, three months later, he unleashes Ocean Roar, the squally counterpart to the illusive moonlight that is oftentimes just a few winks away. And he embraces it, with every lasting rain drop buried in the endlessness of this seething sea of sounds.
Though it may seem that both records follow the unsubstantial concept of yin and yang – as Clear Moon‘s motif of serene lightness clearly opposes the raucous gloom of an ocean’s roar – they both come out as different shades of grey. As soon as the epic clangor of opener “Pale Lights” dies away into Ocean Roar‘s subtle title track, you’re welcomed by a soothing polyphony of Elverum’s meditative crooning and a ghostly female treble, inducing a gentle change of pace similar to the mournful black clouds that suddenly canvas Clear Moon on “Over Dark Water.” The song’s restraint keeps the storm at bay, forcing the erratic sea to build up again and gather momentum during the first instrumental track just to finally collapse in the climaxing uproar of “Waves.” While the distortion-drenched whirring continues in “Engel der Luft,” you are already out there in the ocean, floating on the rustling waves that Ocean Roar emits, being forsaken but never hopelessly lost as the sedate shoreline is still in sight.
Even though Phil Elverum paints his notes on vast reverberating soundscapes, they are still made of simple thoughts – thoughts about nature, existence and home, brought to life in a lonely church in Anacortes, Washington. For his drawing of the Ocean Roar, he left the secluded clearing that was a safe haven for Clear Moon and ascended a stormy cliff to capture the beauty of thundering cascades and sleeping waves. And while in some places he added too much of his idiosyncrasy (no record needs children stock effects), the second Mount Eerie record in 2012 is in no way inferior to the mesmerizing piece of art that was Clear Moon, sonically and visually.
through a wall of fog:
clear moon remembered