Thursday, October 28, 2010
Thursday's Track: Mount Eerie "Between Two Mysteries"
This is a trial run for a potential new series in which I upload a track I like and write about it. If people are interested, let me know in the comments and I'll keep the series going. I hope that this series will elicit some conversation about the songs and artists chosen. Although this site will still always be primarily about film, I also enjoy writing about music and haven't done enough of it lately. The first entry in the series is dedicated to one of the most important songwriters of the last decade or so, Phil Elverum of the Microphones and Mount Eerie.
"Between Two Mysteries" is a key track on Mount Eerie's bleak masterpiece Wind's Poem, an album inspired by black metal, by David Lynch's Twin Peaks, and by singer Phil Elverum's year of living in an isolated cabin in the Scandanavian wilds. This song makes the Twin Peaks influence explicit by cleverly interpolating snatches of the droning, eerie melody from Angelo Badalamenti's music for that series. This unsettling tune is juxtaposed against a propulsive guitar figure and hints of vibraphone accents, while Elverum's hushed vocals drift atop the dense, layered music. Elverum has always been interested in nature, in the elements, writing his psychological and emotional trials onto the harsh, cold expanse of an unblinking, uninterested natural world. His lyrics often suggest humanity's encounter with the incomprehensibility of the universe, which is why towering mountains, purifying flames and icy winds recur again and again in his imagery. Here he sings: "The town rests in the valley beneath twin peaks, buried in space/ What goes on up there in the night?" The lyrics turn around such ambiguous questions and such charged images; the "twin peaks" might be mountains dwarfing a settlement, or they might be a proper noun referring to Lynch's warped rural landscape.
This song, a delicate gem positioned amidst the at-times blistering assault of Wind's Poem as a whole, evokes sonically as well as lyrically that fragile beacon of civilization nestled within the chilly wilderness. Other songs on this album use waves of ferocious guitar distortion to evoke the roar and rage of the wind, buffeting Elverum's murmuring voice until he seems lost and afraid. "Between Two Mysteries" suggests a shelter from the storm, a respite from nature's awe-inspiring fearsomeness, even if that foreboding hum underpinning everything hints at darker ideas. For this reason, the song works best in the context of Wind's Poem as a whole, and I'd recommend that anyone who likes this song should certainly check out the full album. But even in isolation, this is a remarkable example of Elverum's rich, allusive, deeply affecting songwriting.