growing sideways, like brooks

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Record of the day is "Singers"--by, I guess, Singers--on P.W. Elverum & Sun. The packaging promised all sorts of things I like: blurry front-cover photo, titles and lyrics and credits and notes on the back cover all hand-written, an LP that includes a CD of the same thing (the Shellac trick!), and mostly the form of the band itself: a whole lot of singers (including, sometimes, some I know and love well: Calvin Johnson, Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlin, Khaela Maricich) gathered around a microphone, with a few extra instruments. And I love the one song from it I knew already, "I Can't Believe You Actually Died," which had been a Microphones single the first time, or rather Microphones Singers. And even though I don't own a lot of Phil Elverum's records (with Microphones and Mt. Eerie), I do tend to enjoy the ones I have, especially that one that's just the drums from a Mt. Eerie album.

These songs, though: they've been around for a long time, at least a few years, and maybe they haven't come out before now because they're not as special as they want to be, or ought to be. The "poor sound quality" advertised on the back cover isn't a problem (I like the foreground/background distinction the crappy recording makes on, especially, "I Cut My Hands Off"), and I'm willing to deal with some off-keyness in an amateur choir, but--maybe it's just the out-of-tune instruments: I keep hearing this as the rehearsal for what might eventually become a tingly thing. And then I notice that aside from "...Actually Died" the songs are a little sickly, a little too attached to their couches; they state their idea in the first 20 seconds, and then they keep going until they're not going any more. I think that if I bought into the Mt. Eerie internal mythology a little more, I'd probably find this album more illuminating, but if I'm going to buy into a band's internal mythology, I'm going to go for Magma's and maybe Amon Düül II's before I get around to Mt. Eerie.

Even so. I almost enjoy a couple of these songs a lot, especially "I'll Shut Up"--I wish it included all the lyrics written on the back cover, or that the amateur choir did more than climb up and down a five-note scale, or that the melody was up to the standard of lyrics like "Just look at my face and know me. Feel my hand on your shoulder and know me. Put your hand on my stomach and feel the baby kick!"


Hi Douglas.

First, if you like that drums record you might enjoy this thing i made:

Second, I mostly agree with your assessment of the record: some cool songs but i wish he'd be more demanding of the ensemble, teach 'em some harmonies, etc, and the adherence to the one mic with no overdubs format eliminates the element of surprise and shape which is a big part of what makes his studio approach so exciting (remember the piano falling down the stairs on "Pearl Diver")? But I think the main reason this record is precious to me is because it functions as a souvenir of the old live shows where Phil would spontaneously gather a choir of people who didn't really know the songs and have us all back him up. (That's me on the far left of the front cover). By necessity the songs for this format are all kind of repetitive.

I have to say though, that I don't understand what people are on about when they talk about Mt. Eerie having an "internal mythology". I'm especially bothered by the idea (propagated most notably by pitchfork) that Phil's cultivating some kind of caclulated "persona". Do you maybe mean that you don't follow the internal symbology that he's developed over the years?

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on October 5, 2005 10:54 PM.

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