MUSIC REVIEW: Mount Eerie’s “Dawn” is darkly stunning

Phil Elverum has been making beautiful music for years, and his impressive catalogue is largely due to his furious productivity, which is why a mere month after the release of “Lost Wisdom” he has released “Dawn” under the well-loved moniker of Mount Eerie. This album is partnered with a book of Elverum’s journals and drawings. The minimalist solo recordings were put to tape from 2002 to 2003, and the contents of the book are from the same time period which, according to the Mount Eerie Web site, Elverum spent alone in a log cabin in northern Norway. This album features Elverum and his acoustic guitar, nothing more. The range of emotions and wonderful mental imagery that Elverum is able to evoke with these two instruments is awe-inspiring; his craftsmanship as a writer shines through. However, it is for this reason that the album can be a dense listen, with layers upon layers of simple finger-picked tunes interrupted only by Elverum’s soft, melancholy voice and his love of unexpected silences.The almost sorrowful tones of Elverum’s voice gently paint a picture for the listener. Small images flit in and out of the ear: scenes of wintery landscapes in hushed, flickering tones illuminated by the steady strum of a mournful and deep acoustic guitar. In tracks like “I Say No” Elverum sings, “Some people say rise live, friend, live/ I say die I say shine what precious light you have into caves … I say find life where you foolishly saw graves.” Lyrics like these are the backbone of the album, with heartfelt, personal sentiments that leave a sorry taste in the mouth. Elverum can never express pure joy as we know it, nor can he express pure sorrow; he lives in a world that exists in a perfect equilibrium between the two. It is this bittersweet sentiment that characterizes “Dawn” and appeals to the introspective intellect of the listener.Elverum’s evolution as a musician has led him here, and the bizarre musical effects and sound distortion that were prevalent in his Microphones days where he crafted his fuzz-folk indie canon are nowhere to be found in this album. He truly embodies the sparsest specimen of songwriting, which is also ultimately the most impressive and honest. The concentration on the craft of music is evident, and yet still Elverum retains the slightly out-of-focus view of the folk song that fans love so dearly. While the album sorely lacks the contrast that was evident in “Lost Wisdom” through his pairing with Julie Doiron’s faded and elegant vocals, the album provides a definitive sound-scape that is at once lovely and strange.When listening to “Dawn,” the stark white Norwegian sky is easily visible, leading the eye to a few blackbirds winging around the small cabin in which Elverum shut himself away to write his beautiful things. As always, Mount Eerie takes away breath, instills a sense of joy after staggering sorrow, and has created another stoically beautiful album.4 StarsDawnMount EerieP.W.Elverum & Sun