Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron Lost Wisdom pt. 2

[P.W. Elverum & Sun; 2019]

Styles: crackle, compost, thank you, next
Others: Eric’s Trip, Beat Happening, Geneviève Castrée

You sat on your bed and laughed and said “my friend and I send each other things we see,” and then you showed me the screen of your phone. “IS LOVE GARBAGE OR RECYCLING?”

I loved that you laughed. I loved that you sighed. “Yeah, now I need a second.”

In the company of the crunch, we crave time. In walking with real things, we hope we find a moment proper enough to address the unutterable things.

I have tried to write about music with the luxury of time. I have thought that the most honest and honorable way to treat the love and loss poured into manipulated noise was to give it time to affect me, to offer something prayer-like in response. The thing about bonfires and love songs and real death and new want, though, is that there is never as much time as you think there is. This is a very awful thing to reckon with. It is also a very wonderful thing to realize. Full of wonder, stuffed with awe; we are reminded by the snap of things that everything — rather than nothing — is all we are.

There is a truth in simply saying the thing as it is (“death is real”). There is a similar and incongruent honesty in seeing the layer in the saying, in singing it. There is a second truth in the smokes that come from fires. Lost Wisdom pt. 2 possesses both strains of truth.

I came to Mount Eerie late. The first time I heard Phil’s voice was “Real Death.” I could barely imagine that I was hearing a voice that makes these sounds. I struggled to imagine what it must be to have spent a life listening to that voice, tracing it for years only now to feel its new grains and catches and heaves. I can’t imagine what it is to have a voice in your life and then not have it. A Crow Looked At Me and its companion Now Only are some of the first experiences I have with death as an adult, I think. I hope that doesn’t sound pat or reductive. I only mean that the way grief and grace dance with each other, direct and companionable, help me in this season of life where death feels both less knowable and more manageable, closer but smaller, the pressure of a held hand.

Lost Wisdom pt. 2 is very much in conversation with those songs. It is also very much a different timbre, a different burnt wood. It starts with the declaration of opposite possibilities: “Through all of my life/ I waver back and forth between/ A belief and not / Believing in anything.” It ends with a statement of purpose: “There’s nothing else I can give/ But love.” Both songs are called “Belief,” two parts of a whole. This is an album about remembering believing. This is an album about the whole of love.

If belief can be a through-line, not a something that either is or isn’t but rather a movable limb depending on what motion is being begged of it, so too is love. It is as malleable as language, as the sounds a voice can make to sing of it. Only a few vowels change loving to leaving. You is only specific in that it designates that which isn’t me — the you of Lost Wisdom pt. 2 is different from the one of previous records. This is what time teaches us. Only a few muscles change a cry of grief to a moan of want. This is what we learn. And even as a partner dies or a lover departs or a romance ends, love clings to bodies like coronas around moons.

Other things cling. Grief, like love, is renewable and knowable, a constant process. This has never sounded as clear as it does on “Widows,” which sets locomotive distortion against the unfeeling structure of a calendar: something as innocuous as Mother’s Day might devastate you. How do you get over the death of a person you loved while getting over breaking up with another person you loved? How is there room enough in a single body for all that? Wisdom, maybe, is knowing the getting over is all the time, that there’s nothing after it that’s not what was before it. Wisdom, maybe, is something like knowing how to see reminders of absence as the imprints left by presence: “Nothing is real/ Except this one thing:/ Please remember at the bookstore in the poetry corner upstairs/ I slept with my head on your lap.”

Is the human voice a metaphorizing element? “In all these years of making up songs,” Phil writes in a note dated November 5, 2019, “the aim has always been to just say the thing as directly as possible. Name it, don’t decorate it.” If this dictum felt essential to A Crow Looked at Me, this time, the songs stretch like a body up at dawn, re-finding all the ways it can move. Part of the re-finding is Julie Doiron, who sang with Phil over 10 years ago on Lost Wisdom. Her voice, when it appears alone as it does in the opening bars of “When I Walk Out of the Museum,” is a sound more suited for feeling in bones and tendons than staying in ears; I remind myself that such voices communicate twice in the same moment, with the language they speak and the sounds they sing. These voices are intermediaries; they oxidize the flame and billow up the smoke. When Julie sings in harmony with Phil, in the latter bars of “When I Walk Out of the Museum,” it all fades, not away but together. “Everything:/ the museum / the garbage/ the internet/ the constellations/ all collapse into a heap./ Light floods out / from this compost pile.”

I think this might be the answer to your question and mine. It’s not about trashing or recycling it. It’s about composting it. Finding new ways to speak old truths. I think that’s why we may be here.

I think that’s what Phil and Julie find as they wing and waver their voices around the songs of Lost Wisdom pt. 2. In death, there is love, as there is after death, as there is after love. Love, like matter, cannot be created or destroyed. Love only reorganizes and combines. And sometimes it hibernates in caves and sometimes it raves in great brights, but it is not destroyable. Though created worlds apart by wholly different collections of constantly-activating cellular processes, Lost Wisdom pt. 2 reminds me most of thank u, next, another album of living beyond loss in love. And: “What’s this new version of love that intrudes/ into the peace I thought I had?/ This love has no recipient/ but still lies there smoldering.”And: “I’ve loved and I’ve lost/ But that’s not what I see/ ‘Cause look what I’ve found, yeah yeah.”

I have tried to write these words directly. I have tried not to take too much time, just swim in their sounds a little. I need a second, all the time. I think the one I’ll keep coming back to is, “Even if I never get to see you again/ I’ll know that when we collided we both split each other open.” Surely there is something mortal to it all, all the things we never see again. But to know? To feel (until you don’t feel anymore) certain that that which has happened still has happened? Just like we never said goodbye. There is never enough time. I love you.


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