Mount Eerie Black Wooden Ceiling Opening [EP]

[P.W. Elverum & Sun; 2008]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: black wooden
Others: The Microphones, Singers, Karl Blau, Thanksgiving

Phil Elverum has always incorporated humor into his work. It hasn’t always been a focal point, or even very evident, but the man behind Mount Eerie’s dark pall wears a smile only the Wizard of Oz behind his curtain could comprehend. It’s a sly, yet warming, grin telling us that Phil is in on one of the universe’s colossal jokes; he gets something we don’t, but his modesty and generosity prevent him from rubbing our noses in it (“Don’t Smoke” aside).

Part of Elverum’s sense of humor involves his openness to change, whether it is in a name, sound, or song. As it turns out, Black Wooden Ceiling Opening is change at its most entertaining. Elverum, this time backed by Kjetil Jenssen of The Spectacle and Jason Anderson, has tapped into music-making’s often ignored element: fun. Apparently, the metal influence permeating throughout Black Wooden Ceiling Opening is an attempt at creating a new genre -- a new sound -- simply known as "Black Wooden." But is this a joke? Phil, always full of sage advice and a bag full of new songs, wouldn’t be trying to pull a fast one on us with this sonic reinvention, would he?

Actually, Black Wooden Ceiling Opening isn’t so much about reinvention as it is about reinterpretation. It's the sound of Phil cutting loose with a new style. Much of the crunch surrounding Phil’s new Black Wooden sound is nothing more than cranking up the distortion and having fun bashing away. The three older and slower tracks are given new life with the angrier chuckle of Black Wooden, particularly “Don’t Smoke,” which was in dire need of a seething edge to drive Phil’s anti-smoking message home. As a soft-spoken directive, “Don’t Smoke” was just a gentle talk with mom about the ill-effects of tobacco use, but with a bombastic new coat of feedback and yelled vocals, it becomes a command. Black Wooden also gets its claws into the No Flashlight track “Stop Singing,” but it isn’t until the song’s final minute that its effects transform the once-tender track into a moon beast, with blistering riffage and sludgy melody reminiscent of a twisted, less hairy version of Motörhead. Lemmy would be most proud.

It’s the EP’s first three songs, however, that steal the show. With Black Wooden flowing in their veins, Phil’s metal trio breathes the fire of Mount Eerie’s live shows into these new tracks. Opener “Appetite” parallels the quiet/loud aesthetic of album closer “Stop Singing,” slowly building up the darkness until it’s unleashed with one giant blow of bass drums and low-end fuzz. “Domesticated Dog” takes a break from the metal homage and finds itself in poppy garage rock, sounding more mid-’90s college radio than mid-’80s Headbangers Ball. The best of the new batch, however, is “In Moonlight,” which combines the quiet beauty of older Phil projects with the punch of Black Wooden’s demure rock. The song is hushed, as Phil whispers his faint lament to those who haven’t already lost their hearing. Once the ringing has subsided and his melodious voice is decipherable, Phil and company unleash a devastating package of Crazy Horse crunch and John Bonham power drumming. The many worlds of Phil crash and burn, as the track erupts into one last minute of neck-breaking speed metal.

With this EP, Phil isn’t cashing in on fan loyalty, nor is he trying any fancy parlor tricks. Black Wooden Ceiling Opening is simply another side of Phil’s Mount Eerie persona. And, for me, discovering Phil’s playful side through this EP has been a pleasure akin to sex -- though I can assure you that I didn't use the holes in my Mount Eerie vinyl to do naughty things. I'm leaving the hardcore acts to the music.

Most Read