Review Summary: "What is the sky?"
Phil Elvrum's music has always existed in it's own, intransigent world: a world of innocence and self-awareness, where impartial observations of natural events and the feelings and emotions that follow are somehow abstractly recorded and communicated through sound. It's this constant sense of aimless searching and wondrous discovery that is at the very soul of Elvrum's work. On Clear Moon, his fifth LP under the “Mount Eerie” moniker, clouds drift and trees sway with the same aimlessness of existence that Elvrum so obsessively captures. It's not about answers, so much as the questions, and the beauty underlying each innocent, wandering thought gone unanswered, that underlie every dissonant loop and whispered secret.
Musically, Clear Moon finds Elvrum at his most harmonious and hypnotic. Peace and harmony are at the heart of this record, and even when it dives into the murky depths of its most dissonant moments, there is a constant sense of doubtless tranquility. The record starts in a familiar light: “Through the Trees Pt.2” is a gentle acoustic strummer, rustic and warm, patiently filling itself out, taking shape, molding itself against the soft haze of intimate percussion and Elvrum's distinctively distant, whispered vocal style. Most of the rest of the album finds its niche in hazy loops and distant melodies. “House Shape” might raise some comparisons to Radiohead's Idioteque with it's last two minutes: a hypnotic vocal loop that's surprisingly catchy. “Lone Bell” is a post-punk trance that's carried by it's steady bass line and frantic, yet distant and quiet percussion, which lies like bedding under the shifting and turning synth and brass embellishing dark and beautiful melodies overhead. “Yawning Sky” is the simplest, but probably the most effective example: “Asking questions, while night grows,” Elvrum sings over a soft bed of hypnotic synth and soft, leading drums. A single guitar chord signifies a chord change, and the song moves slowly towards nothing. It's an aimless gem, a single, beautiful scene without purpose. A lone observation picked out among a sea of thoughts. Clear Moon is built on these thoughts.
Elvrum's music is like a collection of thoughts; unrelated, impartial observations of a scene drifting hazily through the mind of someone too innocent and self-aware to attach any sort of concrete importance to it. It doesn't need a concrete purpose though. Clear Moon is the open sky stretching marvelously outward beyond the reaches of our understanding, and Elvrum understands that the best questions are left unanswered, the mystery untainted, the beauty distant and compelling.