Clear Moon is an album that’s obviously centered around ideas of nature, weather, and more specifically Anacortes, Wash., the location of Phil Elverum‘s permanent residence and newly constructed recording studio. However, instead of simply admiring this corner of earth for its largely untouched beauty, clockwork-like cyclicality, and fertile atmosphere, Elverum observes his surroundings within a more immediate, mortal context; his lifestyle and actions seem to have a tangible and powerful effect on the world around him. On “Through The Trees pt. 2” he confesses that “dark smoke fills the air/ some from the fire in my house/ some from me driving around.” This triplet represents just one example of the brilliant, sublime observations that Elverum makes throughout Clear Moon; an album that deserves focused, line-by-line attention, but also one that will win fans with its mercurial yet comforting instrumentation.
The blossoming opener, “Through The Trees pt. 2” is followed by “The Place Lives” and “The Place I Live,” the latter of which finds Elverum joined by Allyson Foster, whose elegant voice over haunting strings is reminiscent of Julia Holter’s Ekstasis, released earlier this year. Lyrically, Elverum and Foster evoke images rolling clouds, birds singing, and rocks in water. Each simple piece helps to paint a larger picture of the infinitely rich habitat that surrounds them. Musically, Elverum uses a distinctly similar strategy as most songs throughout Clear Moon employ a myriad of instruments that each play a simple, yet effective role, successfully creating a complex threadwork of sound that never feels cacophonous or unintentionally overwhelming.
“Lone Bell” and “House Shape” are two standout examples of this rich style of composition. Each bends and evolves throughout its duration, allowing Elverum the perfect setting for his inquisitive and insightful lyrics. The tracks lead into “Over Dark Water,” which touches on some of the black metal sounds from 2009’s Wind’s Poem. The album concludes with a few songs that are more restrained in tempo but still possess the palpable, pent-up energy that Elverum releases elsewhere on the album.
Phil Elverum has now released five albums as Mount Eerie with a sixth due out later this year, and his work under the name has covered the spectrum from quiet and intimate to loud and abrasive. While Elverum’s musical style continues to evolve, we can trace some of his introspection through nature back to 2001’s appropriately titled track, “The Moon,” released on The Glow, Part 2 under his previous alias, The Microphones. He closes the song with, “I went out last night to forget that/ I went out and stared it down/ But the moon stared back at me/ And in it’s light I saw my two feet on the ground.” On Clear Moon, Elverum continues to ask questions about the meaning of nature, from its smallest aspects to its largest abstractions. And while the quest for these answers may be fruitless, the meditation itself seems to be giving Elverum new revelations about his personal experience, artistic arc and place in the world.
Stream: Mount Eerie – “House Shape”