Phil Elverum’s penchant for the unconventional has always been a recognizable trait of his work. I would argue that all his work under the Mount Eerie moniker is unconventional; there are, however, times where it stands out even more. His latest release, a forthcoming one titled Pre-Human Ideas out on his P.W. Elverum and Sun imprint November 12, is one of those times.
A look at the creative is the first sign that something here is different. Elverum himself is on the cover, as is his computer — Mount Eerie cover art typically features a surreal-looking place photograph or drawing.
A look at the track list is the second sign: these are familiar names, ones we’ve seen in the recent past. Pre-Human Ideas consists of predominantly pre-released Mount Eerie tracks, reworked, but not in a way you’d expect.
Last year, Mount Eerie gave us two releases, Clear Moon and Ocean Roar. Following these releases, he put out a 7″ single. The A-side features all tracks from one of the albums played simultaneously atop one another, and the B-side featured the same from the second.
This is not one of those releases. This is a different kind of re-working: more digitized, and entirely auto-tuned. What started as “exploratory and instructional demos to teach the songs to various touring bands” (per the press release) ultimately expanded to include wildly pitch-shifted and auto-tuned vocals. Elverum’s voice is unfamiliar and electronic; on one hand he sounds feminine, on the other an elderly, deep-voiced male fond of cigarettes.
Instrumentation is not always the same, either. In some cases stripped-down and more minimalist (the opening and closing tracks have been pared down to their respective, previously buried organ tracks), in others revisited entirely (“Yawning Sky”).
Pre-Human Ideas is beyond interesting. Familiar favorites including “House Shape”, “Lone Bell” and “The Place Lives” become favorites in a new light. Some are calming, subdued tunes somewhere in the surreal lands between mesmerization and paralyzing terror. Others, like closer “ORGANS (the Place Lives)” have a deep sadness to them, once hidden and now exposed.
Any fan of Mount Eerie should be able to appreciate what Phil Elverum has done here. After all, it is in the unconventional where he is often at his most creative.
Listen to “Lone Bell” off Pre-Human Ideas below, and look for the LP come November. Above photo from the Mount Eerie Flickr page.