Saturday, November 17, 2007

mount eerie w. woelv, flying, karl blau @ lutheran church of the messiah, 11/8/07

(sorry for the delay, my computer broke this week and only got it fixed today).

phil elverum and his friends (at least the ones who played at the lutheran church of the messiah last week) have something in common: they are astounding. last thursday's incredible basement show, lit by candles and colored lightbulbs, was simply transportive. the 150 or so people crammed into the greenpoint church were quiet, respectful, and stunned by what we saw - simply, one of the finest shows of the year.

as you may have guessed by now, this was a todd p show (who else has concerts in church basements?), and was a study in sharing and tolerance. the neighborhood demanded low volume (the word was that the mount eerie show, audible only if no one else was talking, was the loudest ever in that space), and the hush became an integral part of the show's magic. huddled in a basement with polish beer and flannel jackets, the stage barely illuminated by amber and blue cliplights, all four acts (karl blau, flying, WOELV, and mount eerie) played with noble restraint, their music replacing their selves as the audience's focus.

karl blau, last-minute addition to the bill, was another horse from the k stable (along with woelv and mount eerie), and a longtime elverum disciple. blau was a looping wizard, crafting gauzy sonic tapestries with a heavy 60s pop feel. it was often enjoyable unclear the extent to which blau improvised on premeditated melodies; his songs developed organically, growing note by note without any discernible guide. it was riveting, reinforcing the incredible intimacy of the space, especially when he didn't use the mic, his voice carrying just as far without amplification. between songs, blau seemed to suffer from some stage fright, stammering and telling stories, but there was no such nervousness in his songs. methodical and compelling, blau set the tone for the show: quiet, intense, and remarkable.

"dark magic sea" - available at kelp monthly.

flying, next up, was the only non-k band, and the difference was palpable. while blau, and later, woelv and mount eerie, embraced the quiet, flying was clearly less at home. the trio, however, adapted well to the limits of the space, expanding and dimming their sound without diluting it. flying commented more than once on the required volume, saying "we've never played such a quiet show before." yet because flying was the only band limited by the volume constraints (and, actually, the only band, since all the others were solo artists), their set was aurally and visually engaging and innovative. during one song, flying's drummer and keyboardist stalked along the back edge of the stage, yelping and hooting in time with the music, their grunts echoing in the hushed space. flying's sound was an odd one, a sort of postmodern weimar cabaret effect, creating a pastiche of prettiness, like juana molina without electronics. it often seemed as if all three were playing in disparate keys, rhythms, and tempos, yet the music was well-blended and exciting.

"minors" - from just-one-second-ago broken eggshell, available from mill pond records.

one of the coolest elements of the show was the effort todd p made to keep the crowd seated. for a stage that was no more than two feet high, this was both a logical and aesthetic decision. though sitting on a hard floor for three hours really kills the butt, a sitting crowd kept the show intimate and special. sitting there, in the near-darkness, the music literally washed over us, and the church's basement was really a sanctuary.

WOELV is the inexplicable pseudonym of geneviève castrée, a quebecois artist who deserves every single comparison to sigur ros. true to her roots, castrée sings only in heavily stylized french, backed only by guitar and her own looped voice. breathtakingly beautiful in her stark musical simplicity, WOELV was riveting. castrée's airy choral onomatopoeias served a feather bed for her verses, warm and soft against the transcendent wails. castrée's vocal style begs comparisons to jónsi birgisson, her singing chillingly evocative. WOELV used a guitar for some songs, but the most moving songs were the acapella ones, her voice echoing against itself in the tiny room, relaxing yet spine-tingling. as with blau, WOELV found that using the microphone wasn't absolutely necessary, and some of the evening's best moments were during her set. i was stunned by the sheer beauty of her songs.

"drapeau blanc" - WOELV's tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? will be released on december 4 by k records.

mount eerie is a band for completists. phil elverum has released somewhere between 8 and 10 million albums, as both the microphones and mount eerie; his lastest, mount eerie pts. 6 & 7, is a 132 page photobook that is "the visual counterpart to pretty much the entire catalog of the microphones and mount eerie," overexposed and lovingly reimagined images of our natural world. accordingly, mount eerie's set was backdropped by short movies of beautiful and terrible interactions with nature. phil elverum, minimalist, naturalist firebrand, matched his songs to the images, pairing his more frustrated songs with videos of steel refineries and the soothing, elegant ones with ferns blowing in the wind or fog rolling over an evergreen forest. at times, it was so beautiful that tears came to my eyes. having extinguished all electric lights, elverum was lit only by candles on the stage and the reflected light from his backdrop, and it was the easiest thing in the world to close your eyes and see the cloud-topped mountain or the moon rising over a harbor. serene, reflective, optimistic, mount eerie was as spiritually rejuvenating as a sermon.

mount eerie plays new york again in december, at st. mark's church. you would do well not to miss it.

"wooly mammoth's absence" - from australian tour ep, available here.

phil elverum runs his own store here, where you can buy mount eerie pts. 6 & 7, among other treats.

mount eerie song

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