2012 has been a big year for Phil Elverum who has given us the cathedral filling hallowed highs of Clear Moon and Ocean Roar. The man behind the Microphones/Mount Eerie is no stranger to creating sounds of northwest hermitage and here he has forged a recording studio out at a desanctified church in Anacortes, Washington, which Everlum dubbed ‘The Unknown’. Together the two albums released present different creative home made indie works in a space that gives the solo visions of solitude amplification into that outer congregational space typically reserved for hymns of monotheistic worship. Here at Phil’s church of the Unknown, we hear Clear Moon as the calm before the mighty Ocean Roar‘s musical tidal wave that engulfs the former album’s “Yawning Sky”, “Over Dark Water”, “Through the Trees Pt. 2” and flooding “The Place I Live.”
“Pale Lights” begins the water swell with the sound of strings synthesized and layered on top of each other like a 10 minute natural disaster that gets its master volume trimmed with the synthesized doorbell that signals Phil’s upcoming sparse poetic tractate placed amid the storm. “Pale lights from other islands slow flashing through blue dusk across the water seeing island shapes 'Who is there?' I call. A small yelp on the wind and then more roaring”. “Ancient Times” ushers in the piano used as the rhythmic driving force on the following “Instrumental” with the aid of organ and synthesized woodwinds accompanied by religious ecstatic visions of electric guitar bursts. One my favorite tracks on the entire work is “Waves” which not only goes with the aquatic motif of the record but stands out as one of the best examples of forging the kind of dream weapon guitar that the world left at the curb once grunge became the banner for guitar driven angst. Elverum here thrashes the guitar overlays against the rocks with percussion crashes that sound like stilted and intoxicated tides eroding the shore’s stony guard. In a cover of Popol Vuh, Phil takes on “Engel der Luft” with black metal guitars that murmur and quiver creating a monstrous communion of shredding met with celestial beings in flight to the heavens from the humble Anacortes former-sanctuary. “I Walked Home Beholding” is perhaps the most conventional of songs on the album where much of the album like the ominous “instrumental” 7 minute works on a tangent of brilliance that only self-made studio isolations can bring.
Those seeking the serenity of Clear Moon will discover a whole new type of therapy in Ocean Roar. As both of these albums are the result of Elverum’s new post-church studio construction, the two releases complement each other as the yin to the other’s yang. On Ocean, abrasive and skuzzy “instrumental(s)” replace the keyboard drones of “something” found on the Clear Moon where “Over Dark Water” forewarns of the tumult that consumes this new album. “I Walked Home Beholding” holds tight to the previous disc’s serenity where Phil provides the following pause of, “the world is frozen, I left the studio, night had fallen, the storm had cleared, the whole town had been abandoned except for me,” before the final instrumental awakens the still life.Those looking for the Mount Eerie amp blowout of the year will peace amid the tempest of Ocean Roar where those preferring or seeking the dao of Anacortes, Washington will find their calm and zen under a Clear Moon.