Every note the Microphones play is so jaw-droppingly beautiful and not-of-this-earth. With Mount Eerie, they’ve created more art in five songs than• man, I’m stacking this record beside whole genres, epochs even, and the Microphones still radiate blissfully. Okay review over. Or not• It’s one of those records where you play it to your musician friends and maybe they’ll sneer and crack wise, but then fast forward to an hour later and they’ll be sobbing into their tear-soaked pillow in pure green envy. I would have been too, were I not already enveloped in the sonic equivalent of the rapture (yes, the BIG rapture). What’s left behind?
The seventeen-minute clarion call of an opener “the Sun” begins with ten minutes of pounding percussion that kinda recalls the world music dabblings of Macha, but even more so the Helms Deep battle scene in The Two Towers. Dude, it’s a beast. When the silence cracks through, it’s to herald angelic choir sighs and Phil Elvrum’s impossibly fragile (yet not at all twee) vocals over tiny bass noodles. As found noise and horn tension simmer in the background, the music finally explodes into this monstrous bass-driven groove that’s all distorted and kinetic, but that’s only for a minute. Damn! “Solar System” starts out as a blanket of radio static, but soon takes shapes as a lovely acoustic idyll (Nick Drake! Tim Buckley! = tourettes). Stuff like this is so pretty it hurts to listen to.
Just like in the opener, “Universe” has all this crazy Mo Tucker percussive overload kicking it off; it’s this sort of attention to the power and abandon of drums and groove that distinguished the Microphones from many of their maybe indie brethren. But enough theorizing, I’m too busy swooning and smoothing down the raised hair on the back of my neck after the girl-boy vocals, especially the refrain, “Do you really think there’s anybody out there,” and Elvrum’s reaching and straining towards the end. Man, that’s powerful sorcery. The same ethereal massed oohs that ended “Universe” begin “Mt. Eerie” before shifting into near-classical massing of voices and horns and strings. Then it turns into some crazy distorto-funk and THEN a woozy acoustic shuffle-as-lament. At about this point, I think there’re some lyrical conceits going on here that I’m missing out on too, but when the sounds are so wonderful and fulfilling, I get distracted from weightier matters. Sorry. There’s more of that pesky static!
Final track, “Universe” (same name as track 3) just blows me away with its majestic sadness and Olympian reach; it’s beyond my capacity to objectively review. Astonishing.
Most of all, the Microphones remind me of Public Image Limited around the time of Metal Box, not in terms of sound at all, mind you, but in terms of the same uneasy intimacy of the recordings and the utter fearlessness in creating their own musical universe, with no compromise or quarter given. The light is so bright and comforting here.
K Records: http://www.krecs.com/