It seemed a proper time to check back in with Mount Eerie after a couple years; to see where the band’s principal creative personality, and drone rock wizard, Phil Elverum was headed with the band’s 2015 release Sauna. Like the amazing 2009 record Wind’s Poem, Elverum has, in Sauna, put out a record that is accessible for those who wish to immerse themselves in patient melodies played out over long, long, long time frames. The record is quiet; Sauna is calm and melodic, at times consciously soporific and at times menacing; Elverum’s vocals serve to accentuate certain moments of drama, highlighting important changes in most of the songs. Given that the songs adhere to drone style, featuring heavy, heavy, very heavy distortion, the lyrics fade in and out, ghostlike. Fortunately, the ghost is cool.
On Sauna, Elverum layers heavily distorted guitar while lashing in unexpected twists and tones in an effort to create a sense of demarcation in the physical environment. For those wearing headphones, it is noticeable in the left/right fading in “Turmoil.” The effect is even more pronounced when played through decent speakers in two corners of a large room.
Both Sauna and Wind’s Poem include at least one song that is more than ten minutes long. The very long duration of the songs means that, in the long run, fewer people will hear “Through the Trees” (2009), “Sauna” (2015), or “Spring” (2015). And that’s a shame, because they are beautiful songs.
In the song “Through the Trees” we hear a lush, slowly modulating atmospheric vibe that suspends and drifts gracefully, like dust motes in a sunbeam. But things change when you load up the long songs on Sauna. The title track “Sauna” evokes a voice recorder turned on in a small room, focusing a sense of being in a specific physical position: you can hear a wood fire crackling and snapping, intimate. The atmospheric vibe hasn’t gone away, it’s simply become more nuanced and observant. And a little creepy, in a good way indeed.
Later on in the record, “Spring” opens with bell tones, before diving deep into an heavy, heavy, unremitting heavy drone that somehow involves #Dethmetal guitar riffage with tiny delicate chimes. The use of the chimes on this track also lends a sense of position, or spatial orientation.
Both of these records demand a great deal of open-mindedness, patience and indeed perseverance to fully embrace and engage with them. Sauna, in particular, seeks at some level to stream out of your device and sonically alter the immediate environment. Sauna is both psychedelic and experimental; Mount Eerie continues to to challenge and explore. Das wird ja eine richtige Herausforderung.
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