Monday, November 16, 2009

Live: Mount Eerie (Microphones) + Liturgy

When: Halloween
Where: Market Hotel

I gotta start by saying, I recently had a dream that Phil Elverum wasn't actually the guy singing on my copy of The Glow, Pt. II. Apparently, in dreamland, he only sang on the UK release. For some reason, this was a real bummer of a dream.

Anyway, who puts these bills together? It would be like Todd P to book a black metal band before an indie pop band, but I'm not sure this one is his fault. In fact, I think Elverum might be behind it, since their last album was apparently Mout Eerie's "black metal" album, or so he loved telling people. And while I commend him for trying to open indie minds to some music with a backbone, I think this line-up was off-target. Microphones fans from back in the day were horrified by Liturgy's post-thrash freakshow. And Liturgy fans (along with the rest of the Halloween scenesters) talked loudly throughout Mount Eerie's oft-hushed set.

I may have been in the 2% of people there who enjoyed both bands. Liturgy is definitely not my usual style, but they made so much noise while vocalist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix screamed morosely into the microphone! I didn't even know you could scream morosely until I saw this show. The music also had some structural integrity to it - it wasn't "death metal" snooze fest hammering away on minor seconds and growling about eating dead bodies, it was musically complex with sound harmonies and a certain biting momentum. Someone in the band has a good ear, a good education or both. Pulsing frantically, the noise was rich and cavernous but distinctly unsettling. It's not something I plan to seek out in the future, but if I do get into black metal, these guys can definitely take some credit for my conversion. [MySpace]

Despite having put out a supposed "black metal" album, Mount Eerie (f.k.a. the Microphones) don't sound drastically different from what you hear on their 2001 masterpiece, The Glow, Pt. II. Even then, they had intense, ear-splitting sheets of noise. Now, the static may wash over more subtle complexities, but it's hardly a huge leap. And like always, the blasts of static and massive guitar roars frame understated and intensely sad indie pop and folk songs.

Sadly, Elverum and co. only played songs off this latest album, not treating us to even one cut from the The Glow. That was disappointing, but seeing these guys live is still such a mindblowing experience, I can't get that bummed about it. If their melodies aren't quite as consistently beautiful as they were in the old days, their noise is at its best. With two drummers crashing on cymbals and gongs at the back of the stage, the music sounded like Eleverum's usual sonic bulldozer, destroying everything in its wake.

The rise and fall of Mount Eerie's noisy attack is reminiscent of the mountains and valleys that always form a backdrop for Elverum's sound. I'd love to see them in the rainy Northwest, instead of uprooted in the least pastoral city on earth. But we had to make-do.

And even in this setting, hearing Phil Elverum sing his delicate, mumbling tunes - over a din of horrid hipsters jabbering in the background - I was overwhelmed with an inexplicable desire to throw myself at the man's feet. Honestly, I don't even understand my reaction - it was as though I'd been hypnotized. And maybe I had, but I did make it home without far as I remember! But despite the potential dangers, I'd gladly be put under that spell again. A black metal-influenced indie folk band on the classic twee label K records - they are a band of contradictions that sound like no other. [MySpace]

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