With Mount Eerie — the far-flung vehicle of Washington's Phil Elverum — form always follows function. This seems disingenuous to say of a project that has produced such disparate output — the stripped-back folk-rock of 2008's Lost Wisdom is a far cry from the full-on fire and brimstone of 2009's black metal-leaning Wind Poems. But neither is a random expression. Lost Wisdom's words chase eternal knowledge and pastoral beauty. Wind Poems is an exercise in anxiety and isolation. In both cases, the music masterfully backs up Elverum's themes.
Clear Moon is the first of two Mount Eerie albums due this year, and it synthesizes many of Elverum's favorite styles into a cohesive and hypnotic whole. "Over Dark Water" pairs Elverum's whispers about the oceans at night with gobs of gorgeous harmony and the contrast of blackened outbursts. It's a feat of brittle emotionalism crushed by cataclysmic noise, cramming Mount Eerie's stylistic poles into three overpowering minutes.
But, as always, Elverum's stylistic tension serves a purpose. Clear Moon hinges on Elverum's fraught relationship with his home of Anarcotes, exploring both the comforts of the rural locale and the frustrations of small-town seclusion. On opener "Through The Trees, Pt. 2," a serene wash of soothing chords is underpinned by a nervy, barely-there drone as Elverum intones, "Can you find a wildness in your body/ And walk through the store after work/ Holding it high?"
Sonically cohesive and thematically immersive, Clear Moon shines with a haunting aesthetic that never dims. As such, it's another impressive entry into Elverum's already rich catalog.