For every release of Phil Elverum’s that I’ve heard (and enjoyed), there are about three that I didn’t even know existed. This is a rule I believe in. There’s another rule of Phil (more on that later), but this one we’ll deal with first. The dude releases things all the time – I guess that’s what happens when you own your own label that’s essentially named after you. I always loved the major Microphones releases that I’d come in contact with – It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water and The Glow, Part 2 – but I hadn’t delved much deeper. That is, I hadn’t listened to an album of only drums, or threw down 64 dollars for the beautiful Mount Eerie book/LP he recently put out.
I always associate Phil’s music with plaintive thought, cold nights, fields, snow, leaves. It bears the question, however – is this what he wants me to associate it with? All the images that he picks to go with his music seem to be up this alley, as if he’s creating the feeling for the listener. In turn, the image of the listener is flipped to Phil’s image. I could pick out a Microphones fan in a room of thirty, maybe even with my eyes closed. This brings us to rule number two: cute girls nearly always like the Microphones or Mount Eerie. And it’s a certain type. You know the type. We all do if we’ve listened – it just presents itself. On Lost Wisdom, Elverum uses this rule to his advantage and perhaps inadvertently transcends the rest of his body of work.
Lost Wisdom is the first album of Elverum’s that’s been instantly accessible to me. It’s only ten songs and twenty-three minutes long. By any standards, this is short. To some bands, this is an EP. In the case of this record, it’s absolutely perfect. It doesn’t drag whatsoever, it only leaves you wanting more. Back to rule 2: Phil employs it with the presence of Julie Doiron on this record. Julie Doiron is absolutely gorgeous. So is her voice and all the music I’ve ever heard her make. I remember the first time I listened to her newest album, Woke Myself Up and I wanted to jump through the walls with fervor – her voice and the drums sounded like they were coming off of the record and into the room to dance around you and bring you into the rest of the record. Doiron has the same effect on Elverum’s music. There is an immediate difference to be noticed on this record at the positive effect that harmony with someone other than himself has upon Phil’s music. Most of the album is sung between the two of them. The songs are short, the melodies are synchronous – it’s like one long perfect song, the delicacy of Phil Elverum only magnified by Doiron’s presence.
On this album there are no songs with guitar or drum feedback. No noise experiments. The perfect experiment seems to be simplicity, and that of the duet. Sure, I bought into the album on a night filled with Elverum images. Cold solitude breeds listening, certainly. The album just works magnificently as a whole. It’s hard to pick out too many individual tracks. It’s a gorgeous swell that overtakes you softly, and it’s twin voices bring it over the edge.
Employ rules that you unintentionally create in order to achieve success. It’s not that Lost Wisdom is Elverum’s best work, it’s just his most immediate. I feel it right now more than I’ve ever felt any of his albums. It’s kind of like a cute girl: they get you right away. But talk to me in a week.
The good ones are still interesting. Sorry for the terrible analogy.