Mount Eerie Now Only

[P.W. Elverum & Sun; 2018]

Styles: distortion
Others: Okkervil River, Harvey Milk, Geneviève Castrée

I imagine I was a lot like Phil Elverum as a kid: unsatisfied, ambitious, and squirming. I didn’t long for answers as much as I longed for affirmation (from teachers and mothers and priests and neighbors and Godfathers) that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was absolute, that Heaven was real and that those poor in spirit would inherit it, that those of us who are constantly overcome with anxiety would eventually be comforted. At recess in grade school, in that wooden bee-infested playhouse where I discovered words like “fuck” and “pussy,” I scrawled beatitudes. Now, I can’t recall them all. I do remember: I took Sunday School awfully seriously; I pictured Jesus in thrift store robes, performing miracles for people who prayed or for whom prayers were addressed. Like Phil, I remain stubborn and restless. When I finally realize that life ends and is just over, I will have swallowed an ulcer full of tears. Until then, I still have bits of different words for Heaven stuck in my brain like shards of glass keeping me from bleeding out. I still picture a wedding:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’”

–John 21:1-4

When I was 10 years old, my grandmother died of uterine cancer, and I spent 15 years not crying about it. Since then, whenever I think about what dying means, I feel like bursting with swallowed tears from my gut. On days when I can only picture walking through a valley and a shadow with a backpack and a tent, I can feel my cells dividing, abnormally, in organs that I don’t have. There’s something about death that feels contagious, like yawning or sneezing, but it took three physicians to confirm that my distress was real. So now I take pills and I cry into pillows (it’s OK), and despite my academic distrust in salvation, I pray:

“You keep my eyelids from closing;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
and remember the years of long ago.
I commune with my heart in the night.”

–Psalm 77:4

And yet: “sometimes, people get killed before they get to finish all of the things they were going to do.” In high school, in between dramatic readings of “Howl” and “Sunflower Sutra,” I fell in love with absurdism — L’Étranger by Albert Camus, in particular — I suppose because it offered literary reprieve from my Catholic guilt. Its tragedy shaped my sense of empathy for men who can’t cry, even at funerals. I identified with Meursault, not because I felt like a stranger in my own world (and at times I did), but because nobody deserves a story that starts with: “Mother died today.” But in reality, mothers are constantly dying; some of them will be remembered and some of them won’t, and which of their lives will echo beyond their actual ends is dictated by legacies of cruelty and chance. I hope that when I’m gone, people will remember me as a flicker of light, and that when my light is extinguished, people will still remember those who made my life brighter, and that some mother will talk her kid into reading something from the Bible, and that my life will have spoken clear and metaphor-free:

“The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.”

–Psalm 119:130

In December 2015, after five and a half years of fighting breast cancer, my stepsister died. Our family dog, unaware of what exactly was wrong, nuzzled my niece’s arm when my stepmother told her that her mother was in a better place, one of those hundreds of words for worlds without end tucked into heads of anyone who’s ever lost someone. After Phil’s last album, I kept seeing crows everywhere, and I wondered whether it was a normal number of crows for someone to see on a regular basis in Wisconsin or whether one of them was my grandmother, sad and incomplete and grieving for lacking what so many needed from her presence, or whether one of them was my sister, maternal and steadying and proud.

And then, distortion…

The first time I listened to Now Only, it was raining and I cried for 10 minutes; after it ended, like a body after an exorcism, I felt lighter, and when I looked out of my window, into a black night, there were no crows or rainbows or signs, but inside of my room, inside of my body

light gleamed.

Eureka!

Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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