The other night I saw Mount Eerie (and Motorbikes and Hungry Cloud Darkening) at the Ratshack. Aside from being one of the most awkward shows I’ve ever been to, I really enjoyed it and have been trying to process it for the last couple days.
I’ve been a fan of The Microphones for a year or two now, with the caveat that my fanship only applies the the album or two that I’ve heard. Each recording is so very dense, and so very satisfying once you break through the veneer of inaccessibility that surrounds a lot of Phil Elverum’s prolific output. As much as I intend to listen to and ultimately love each of his albums and assorted recordings, I expect to do so at a rate of one or two per year in order to avoid rushing through anything.
As a result of this slow burn through a forest of recordings, I hadn’t even begun to tap into the Mount Eerie recordings until I heard about this show. I loaded Clear Moon onto an mp3 player and went for a walk around town at night and let it wash over me. As I expected, a few moments stood out from the beginning, while others remained dense and obscure. The chorus of the title track: “Clear moon, in a black sky” was one that I noticed right away, but which actually faded from my memory until I heard it again live.
When Mount Eerie started setting up and soundchecking, it occurred to me that I had no idea what to expect in a live context. The Microphones / Mount Eerie sound seems so dependent on studio magic (even if that magic consists of analog tape loops and distorted drums). After some hilariously ice-breaking doom metal over the monitors, Mount Eerie started checking their three-part harmonies. Everything that happened after that is what I’ve been having to process since then.
“Clear moon, in a black sky” came back to me with a vengeance when Phil and Allyson Foster from Hungry Cloud Darkening took up the chorus. When I went to listen to the recording the next day, I was a little disappointed to find that the harmony on the album seems to be just two Phils (though Allyson sings on some other songs?). But that’s neither here nor there. I was entranced by the whole performance. From Phil Elverum’s surprisingly personable stage presence to the casual intensity of the band’s swells and expanses of melody.
Mount Eerie, Karl Blau, Hungry Cloud Darkening, bands and bands and beautiful bands. I’ve never been to Anacortes, but seeing Mount Eerie live has made the place and the idea incredibly romantic to me. With any luck, I’ll be making a pilgrimage to Anacortes Unknown next month, where I’ll either requite the bizzarre crush have on an American town 30 miles East of me, justifying my obsession and cementing Phil Elverum as the best tourism ambassador the Pacific Northwest has ever known, or I’ll have a slightly awkward and somewhat fulfilling camping trip to a little city I may never see again.