Artist: Mount Eerie
Label: P. W. Elverum & Son
Release Date: February 3, 2015
One of indie-folk’s biggest risk takers, Phil Elverum, is back under the Mount Eerie moniker after the three year drought that followed his well received releases from 2012, “Ocean Roar” and “Clear Moon.” “Sauna,” the seventh album from Mount Eerie, is a culmination of what fans have come to love about him. Mount Eerie’s soul player, Phil Elverum, formerly of The Microphones, utilizes his entire catalog of sound to produce an album that boasts a wide array of musical territories as well as lyrical content, most of which deal largely with a theme of isolation. While at times the album is perfect for a lazy day mope fest, it does get loud and fast at any given moment.
“Sauna” starts out establishing its environment. In the song “Sauna,” the ten minute title track, Mount Eerie went with the literal approach. The sounds of water meeting hot rocks and an organ’s drone are all we hear for the first few minutes, but soon Elverum’s subdued vocals begin the introduction of the album’s schizophrenic, solemn tone. He leaves the last line in the song with us almost as a thesis, with the introspection, “My life is a small fire I carry around.” To Phil Elverum, perhaps this is a study in where or how to melt the ground around him. For the most part, the first four of the twelve tracks are played soft and to great effect, almost as if you’re listening in on something private. The third track, “Dragons”, keeps with the feeling of isolation and claustrophobia established in the opener. Guest vocalists, Allyson Foster and Ashley Eriksson, exchange heartfelt harmonies, ending with the relatable sentiment, “I dive into a pool of uncertainty.” On the other end, tracks such as “Boat” and the gigantic centerpiece, “Spring,” pull from Elverum’s other talent for a dark metal sound. The transitions from the slower, spacier songs, to the louder selections are often abrupt; however, Elverum balances the sound for a cohesive and listenable album.
Throughout “Sauna”, the listener feels Elverum’s warmth cutting through the snow and ice. The album starts and finishes cold, desolate, and almost spooky in its unwavering execution of the sauna motif. Mount Eerie finishes the album all but thawed. Elverum reminisces of his youth, and the look of the world through new eyes, reassuring his younger self that the moon will show in the empty sky. “Sauna” has made great use of that darkness and uncertainty, providing a collection of songs as haunting as the night sky and as heavy as a broken heart.
Reviewed by: Cheyenne Heaslet