The recent record Wind’s Poem by Mount Eerie is a weird, atmospheric sort of dream. It does indeed feel like a poem about wind. Phil Elverum (the singer-songwriter who for all intents and purposes is Mount Eerie) sings in a soft, almost whispered tone on many of the songs, while electric guitar buzzes much of the time with a droning quality somewhat like heavy metal. That combination of soft singing and occasional keyboard textures with the reverberating guitar strings is what makes Wind’s Poem so unusual — and so compelling. It’s simultaneously airy and subterranean. At moments, it reminds me of something you’d hear on the soundtrack to a David Lynch film.
Mount Eerie — Elverum backed by two keyboard players and two drummers — played the songs from Wind’s Poem Sunday (Nov. 8) shrouded in fog inside Chicago’s Lakeshore Theater. It was just as spooky and riveting as the record. Some technical difficulties with the venue’s sound system even added to the strange mood. For some reason, the speakers were picking up a radio frequency with someone’s conversation, and these disconnected snippets of dialogue punctuated the silences in between the songs. Elverum seemed a little disturbed by that, but he didn’t let it interfere with his performance of his serenely loud music.
Here’s how Elverum explained his new record in an interview with The Believer magazine: “I’ve been writing lately about wind as this force for change and destruction, focusing on the destruction half of the destruction-and-rebirth cycle. But also win as an example of the personality that exists in dark nature. And specifically like when wind blows through trees and sounds vaguely like whispering, pretending that it actually is words. Like ‘What’s it saying? It’s saying something really intense.’ So that’s the idea of Wind’s Poem, thematically at least. There are a couple of different perspectives I sing from on the album. Sometimes I’m doing the voice of the actual wind, what it would say, and sometimes I’m speaking from my own perspective, the human observer, and sometimes there’s a duet between the two.”
Elverum sounds like the sort of artist who isn’t afraid of pursuing unusual ideas. On Sunday, it sounded like his destructive winds were blowing through Lakeshore Theater.
The opening band was No Kids — a Vancouver group including the two keyboard players who performed in Mount Eerie, with Elverum on drums. While I give these musicians credit for their fine work during the Mount Eerie set, the ballads they played with No Kids didn’t excite me nearly as much.