The Microphones
Tests


3.0
good

Review

by Ben USER (14 Reviews)
July 23rd, 2017 | 12 replies


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An Inspiring Mess

Let me be blunt – Tests is a mess. It’s not all that surprising given that the project is a mishmash of Phil Elverum’s pre-1998 experiments, messily stapled together with cracks clearly showing. Indeed, the clue is in the title; this does feel more like a collection of tests than an album, tests that don’t always appear to produce the results likely intended. Yet although clumsy and unpolished, the project is a fascinating listen for the insight it provides into the evolving artistic mind behind The Microphones.

When one pries open Tests, it can feel like one has opened a notebook of Phil’s, the listener privy to his rough and skeletal doodles, the precursors to the man’s more realised works. Instrumentally and aesthetically it’s largely familiar, from the dark-but-bubbly ‘Like a Piranha’ to the cushy ‘Feedback Love’ and foggy thicket of ‘Wires and Chords’. Such passages feel like comforting shadows of the Phil many have come to love, entwined with glimpses of an alternative character: the Phil that could have been. We see this unfamiliar Elverum channel his inner Daniel Johnston in the subtle and eerie ‘Tape Deck Ghost’ and ‘Little Songs’, interspersed with unsettling detours into the realms of the electronic in ‘Soundwaves’ and ‘Monsters’. Whilst quite disparate individuals, both Phils revel in shared lyrical obscurity, ever obtuse in their ramblings about life, recording equipment (yeah, it’s a bit odd), and Elverum himself. The “album” is thus as alien as it is familiar, flitting between the Phil that thrived and the Phil that faltered.

When listening to Tests, its can be quite inspiring to think that a mere 3 years of tinkering and maturation would cause such haphazardly scattered ideas to evolve into the harrowing monolith of The Glow Pt2. It’s equally fascinating to realise that with a few different creative choices the Phil many love today could have easily never come to fruition, replaced by the glitchy, reclusive oddball occasionally revealed here. Of course I’m stating the obvious, highlighting an idea of fragility universal to artistry, but the feeling of ‘what if’ demonstrated and demarcated so vividly in Tests is quite wonderful to behold. This, I believe, is what makes such a nonsensical hodgepodge of ideas an essential listen for any Phil fan. In spite of its flaws, it’s an enlightening and thought-provoking mess well worth wading into.



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user ratings (24)
Chart.
3.1
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
AsleepInTheBack
July 23rd 2017


5898 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Bit of a sloppy review this, c/c welcome. Also, definitely, definitely, definitely not a good starting point for Phil, if that didn't come across. Have a good one.

verdant
Staff Reviewer
July 23rd 2017


2356 Comments


lovely work

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
July 23rd 2017


2714 Comments


Very neat review, Ben. Nice work as always. Album title is weird, so it sounds a little awkward when it's repeated too much, but that's inconsequential. I don't remember if I've given this one a listen, really interesting.

Digging: Pedro the Lion - Phoenix

AsleepInTheBack
July 23rd 2017


5898 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks guys, thanks for giving this a read, appreciated as always.

Yeah I definitely get what you are saying blush, removed one mention of the title to try make is read less awkwardly. Its certainly a warranted listen if you want to know where Phil came from, but one that shouldn't be prioritised over listening to the rest of The Microphones' work.

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
July 23rd 2017


9368 Comments


The Glow pt 2 is one of those classic moments that I am yet to hear a lick of.. need to fix it.. beaut of a review, Asleep..

Digging: Julius Eastman - Unjust Malaise

AsleepInTheBack
July 23rd 2017


5898 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Much love, butcher. Certainly check out The Glow Pt2, whether you like it or not its certainly something worth giving a go (he says with no bias whatsoever, having certainly not 5d the thing)

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
July 23rd 2017


9368 Comments


"an enlightening and thought-provoking mess well worth wading into."

every relationship of my life..

AsleepInTheBack
July 23rd 2017


5898 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

preach

BMDrummer
July 23rd 2017


14417 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yay someone reviewed this



fil is god

AsleepInTheBack
July 23rd 2017


5898 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

he is. long live fil.

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
July 23rd 2017


24306 Comments


nice review asleep! lovin these phil reviews aha. looks like an album i'll check after i dig deeper into his other more official albums

AsleepInTheBack
July 23rd 2017


5898 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Cheers con, and please do. Yes, it seems I have a bit of an obsession with the dude haha



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