I first heard the Microphones' the Glow pt. 2 about six months ago and, overwhelmed by it's beautiful, complex simplicity I got the previous Microphones albums and was not disappointed: even if Don't Wake Me Up and It Was Hot We Stayed in the Water are not as good as the Glow pt. 2, Phil Elvrum's charming compositions and impressive production put these two records way above the average.
The three previous albums, according to Elvrum, were linked to elements : don't wake we up = air/wind, it was hot we stayed in the water = water (duh) and the glow pt.2 = fire. So in consequence he decided that the next Microphones lp would have a "earthly" feeling about it. It does. Drums are everywhere, everything sounds raw and bare, deserted and inhospitable. Making a concept album is twice as difficult as making a "normal" album : you have to make the album sound great while respecting the boundaries fixed by the concept. If you only look coldly at the conceptual side of the album, you can't help but like it. More than being about earth/mount eerie, it sounds like it. Elvrum makes drums sound like they've never sounded before, hurricanes unleashed and mountains falling down.
In the previous lps the elemental feeling was hidden and, even if it was not as obvious as in Mount Eerie, you could feel it, lurking in Elvrum's voice. The albums were a collection of bits and pieces of songs, flooded with ideas, Elvrum sounded like a kid in a house filled with toys, experimenting and always recording. In this respect, Mount Eerie sounds less spontaneous and refreshing, and in my opinion, not as good. There are only 5 tracks in the album, and even though they are often split into two or three parts it sounds like ideas were stretched: you had short tracks with just drums on the previous albums and there it's 6 minutes long. It sounds like Elvrum's artistic energy got muzzled by the concept's intricate boundaries. The charm often fails to operate even though Elvrum managed to make a few parts sound delicately beautiful, like the middle section of Universe. Flowers are earthly too.
/jan 15th 2002/