Mount Eerie

11 Old Songs

(P.W. Elverum & Sun; 2005)

By Dom Sinacola | 27 November 2007

Maybe it’s telling that Phil Elvrum’s latest release has verily slipped through to 2006 without much of a squeak. Mount Eerie’s deluge of releases has turned out to be an abacus for the second half of the past year, hypnotic and desensitizing, counting days with abnormal regularity. The gist of Elvrum’s projects under the Eerie name, so far, have maintained a consistent attitude; conversationally epic lyrics, meandering vocals, confusing “melody,” and an infuriating economy of sound are expected, predictable even when considering his bulbous discography. But, oh golly, 11 Old Songs is a new direction! The analog acolyte has begun scratching the sterile surface of our shiny Digital Age.

Programming Casiotone beats and glutinous synths, Phil still keeps things primal, because, for him, such is humility. In his songs, there’s always been a majesty of surprise, like a proud bearing of impish self-righteousness, because Elvrum’s been so damn comfortable at rending bare sounds even rawer. Shit’s deep, he might think to himself; before he falls asleep at night, he mentions to his wife, I can tap into the beat of the soul of the heart of the cosmos. With a turtle shell and rusty nail, no doubt.

Anyway, like I said: golly. So, primal means humble, which apparently means being progressive enough to dredge up mid-80s, obsolete doohickeys and offering no hint of irony (or reason) at all. Sure, 11 Old Songs marks a “new sound,” as much as No Flashlight seemed new compared to 7 New Songs, but all this begs one question posed before the prolific artist.

***SPOILER ALERT***

11 Old Songs is not very good. Seriously. It’s aimless and boring while still enamored with itself, more than dried up by the time “Wooly Mammoth’s Mighty Absence” is fucking slaughtered in the wake of the sweet 7 New version. Siphon off all warmth, all the melody hidden inside the patience of Elvrum’s words, all mystery, and you have his new deal. No, wait. Add a chintzy, recycled beat, recycled four times previously on the same record, speed it up a tad, touch on some nifty bell harmonics, and THEN you have the new version. Oh, and minus all traces of soul. And this is all after the success of No Flashlight relied so heavily on its bellowing drums.

While we’re at it, “The Death of Night” is terrifying, in a very bad way. It’s ”SINGERS” fellating Satan, or a McCarthyite vitiation of all communal works ever attempted. Besides the grating yelps, Elvrum seems to have edited the song in order to draw out the choir’s screeching to maximum squelch. Or he just told some of them to scream like they were being disemboweled. In the end, though, the only consolations in this track are the lack of repetitive beat and the emergence of a pleasant chorus, but thos’re after one hell of a harrowing majority.

There’s a chance you’ve detected a pattern? Golly, it all just kinda sounds the same, even with a short running time, and even when minding the slim versatility of Elvrum’s tools. Of course, the album isn’t a complete waste. “I Love (It) So Much” actually sounds pretty sexy, and is exactly the right length at a minute and a half. The piano line in “Goodbye Hope” is prominent and quaint enough to belie the throwaway drum loop. Hey, the bass heavy beat on “Log In The Waves” is rambunctious, for once, shifting speaker to speaker, mocking its own thinness. And really, 11 Old Songs is still headphone candy, at least for a couple minutes. But this is not new.

The story, as told, tells of Phil Microphones Elvrum staying in arctic Norway one winter, returning from the Night as Phil Mount Eerie Elverum, and these are the songs he found in between. It’s an important glimpse into a time that could be very important for Elvrum fans, the crazy salivating ones, which are most of them, but the glimpse being so bland and monotonous does little to justify such exile, such undaunted attention to Artist as Personality, as Andy Warhol for Hipsters. The music’s different, a sidestep…sigh…completely inconsequential. And I follow this guy’s stuff like unabashed stink on shit.

Oh, and that one question, right:

What the fuck are you trying to pull on us???