Album Review: Mount Eerie – Ocean Roar

Much of what I wrote about Mount Eerie’s recent release Clear Moon holds true for the album that can be considered its counterpart, Ocean Roar, out today on Mount Eerie’s only constant member Phil Elverum’s own P.W. Elverum and Sun label. That is to say: the album consists of cerebral takes on black metal, showcases highly developed musical and lyrical motifs, and represents an artist honing his craft to achieve a personal vision, without consideration, perhaps, of anyone else’s expectations. Elverum is an artist in every sense of the word.

Ocean Roar, as Elverum indicated prior to its release, contains more experimental song structures than Clear Moon. It begins and ends with the album’s most epic and sprawling, black-metal inspired songs, “Pale Lights” and “instrumental.” Reducing the experimental onslaught to a minimal level several minutes into “Pale Lights,” Elverum delivers the song’s only vocal lines in under a minute before the song swells back to epic proportions. This 10 minute track precedes the album’s most pop oriented song, the title-track, which features the lovely vocals of Allyson Foster and lasts just over two minutes. Accessible though it may be, “Ocean Roar” retains unusual mixing levels and skittering cymbals. A trio of experimental songs follow, with “Ancient Times” the most divergent, utilizes sound samples of children playing as Elverum speak-sings over wandering piano notes.

Before Ocean Roar closes with the dark and distorted “instrumental,” Elverum delivers my favorite song on the record, “I Walked Home Beholding.” Incorporating doo-wop snaps and simple hi-hat, the song plays like a holy hymn for the majesty and mystery of a simple walk home after a storm and sings the praises of Elverum’s island home of Anacortes.

Overall, Ocean Roar will not be as warmly welcomed as Clear Moon, but the two need each other to represent Elverum’s fully realized dichotomous approach to songwriting. Though released separately, I don’t know any other way to understand these albums other than as two sides of one man’s artistic vision. Each album offers important glimpses of Elverum’s maturing craft and show him to be one of independent music’s most focused and unique contributors.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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