Black Wooden Ceiling Opening
(P.W. Elverum & Sun Ltd.; 2008)
By Dom Sinacola | 31 May 2008
The second disc of the recently reissued version of The Glow pt. 2 serves a useful purpose in that it illustrates how stubbornly Phil Elverum will never again release anything as intimate or breathtaking as the last two Microphones albums. As something of a corollary to a corollary, Black Wooden Ceiling Opening serves the purpose of illustrating that Mount Eerie will only ever be Phil Elverum dredging up old material and re-adorning the same.
Not that Phil’s necessarily fucking up his legacy or anything: the defiantly crappy production postured as “organic” isn’t so grating as it once was, say, immediately post-No Flashlight (2005); a wandering, out-of-step vocal cadence and thinning interest on Elverum’s part in making his voice more than a niggling vessel for recycled lyrics and whopping ideas is just expected—you’d be wrong anyway, with whatever interpretation you’re harboring, wasting energy on actually connecting to the music in thematic ways unintended by the songwriter. No, what’s most disappointing with Mount Eerie’s latest EP is that fans just aren’t awarded much for their efforts. And no one will say one goddamned word about it.
By most accounts, Elverum’s built his own castle (P.W. Elverum & Sun) and his own throne of obsolete recording methods (um, everything) and should, lest any listener forget, be lauded for exposing (and explaining to death) every blemish of his career to a devoted base simply because he’s earned the right to do what he wants and how. Only, Elverum never seems to understand the difference between a blemish and a fascinating quirk and, in starry-eyed ignorance, just releases fucking whatever, like drum tracks and epilogues and D-sides and compilations of ambient ditties all called “Window.” Christ, man. I mean, instead of unleashing every half-OK, rambling conceit on a public well aware of your influence as a forebear of such resilience to commercial, studio staining—a public that has crowned you, permanently attached “lo-fi” to your fishy name and spilled their guts about the intimacy of your best work—why not show a bit of new restraint? I know a record label can’t run on good artistic intention only, but everything that Mount Eerie has done since its debut album has served mostly to ruin and gnash apart the startling mystery, patience, and discovery of everything before, simply because Elverum can’t leave well enough alone and can’t leave anything, any longer, to the imagination. Big beautiful bound book or no.
Which makes Black Wooden Ceiling Opening and its appropriately tagged “Black Wooden” style (a pulsing, sometimes foot-stomping hybrid of prog metal and Elverum’s canonical Ewok folk) a pretty good EP, especially as a precursor to a something longer and more turgid if Mount Eerie continues as a three-piece with Kjetil Jenssen and Jason Anderson. Look no further than “Blue Light On the Floor,” originally much more stunning on Mount Eerie pts. 6 & 7, and “Don’t Smoke” to pick the requisite worth out of the album’s smear, to relish how the distorted guitars—loudest Elverum’s been in ages—can actually excite and define the melody Elverum’s vocal lines typically trip up and turn to mush. But with half the songs hurried, feral retreads of previously released incarnations and the remaining mostly awkward as they navigate between Elverum’s insistence on a-musical freedom and the tightness such riffs demand, the EP settles, like ”SINGERS” (2005) or 11 Old Songs (2005), into curiosity, one more interesting, kinda cool step towards the masterpiece everyone expects and expects will never come.