Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It's easy to find out about Anacortes, Washington, from Internet droppings here and there. You can just type the name in and your screen will be greeted with the facts Jack, or the facts ma'am, stunning in their Times New Roman posture, or whichever font is the choice of web developers. We learn, very simply and coldly, that the city of some 15,000 people - give or take - lies on Fidalgo Island and is surrounded by the north Puget Sound and on the other three sides, the San Juan Island. The Swinomish Channel is right there and because of the Olympic Mountain rain shadow that it sits within, the island tends to get half as much rain as soggy Seattle does annually. And though all of this information is on the Internet, plus the fact that our travels have never taken us anywhere near Anacortes, I trust Phil Elverum's songs as Mount Eerie to be a more reputable indication of what we'd be dealing with there and thus we are rejecting what the Internet tells us. We will hereby go with Elverum and his expert analysis of what he sees and experiences outside his windows there in his town. We have to believe that the cited annual rain totals for the place are way, way off. It must be so wet there on a normal basis that people are just alienated from their cars and anything outdoorsy for three-quarters of their waking hours, trapped indoors to watch as the rain droplets streak the glass and rap upon the always massaged roofs. We're sure that Elverum wouldn't lie to us via his shrouded poetry and his almost sensual relationship with all of the naturally occurring touches and "creatures": the wind and the rivers. All of these matters carrying the elusive meanings and solutions to the questions that must be stomping through Elverum's head, one that finds that there is no ease in getting any rest. Mount Eerie songs sound as if the songwriter is afflicted with a haunting - these rows and rows of stumpers, these columns and columns of blissfully(?) puzzling questions - that is carried through the trees, around bends and in the grooves in the soil that have been carved out over centuries upon centuries. The rivers are carrying the same water that's always existed and the winds are jostling the same air particles that are just being filtered, sucked in, coughed out, emitted gingerly, smoked and redistributed - the same stuff that everyone who's ever existed has lived on. The entirety of "Wind's Poem," Mount Eerie's latest full-length, is an exhilarating love song to those various things that none of us can control, but which happen so easily - with or without provocation. The river waters seem to never stop, always finding somewhere to come from and somewhere to go. Elverum sings about their spirits this way - taking on joint rolls with its brethren wind -- on "Wind Speaks," "When the wind speaks, it says, 'I am the river, I am the torrent of tearing flame, I remove bodies and I hold void. I have no shape." He sighs loudly when he begins to speak in the wind's voice, letting the "h" sound of the long span of air hold and hover in the darkness that tends to surround most of Elverum's songs. He's a man out in the stark, stark barrenness, hoping for conclusions and reasoning, turning over every rock and listening for it in the songs of the wind, which he fully trusts and which he fully believes in. He's "hunting for singing," as he mentions on the record. He gives us his tender impressions of what's going on around him and around us, with these two forces of shapeless contours and profiles, and we find ourselves feeling more tender and more vulnerable ourselves as we listen. We're lost in that fog and those downpours with him.
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