Mount Eerie ‘Real Death’
Death is a subject many artists have tried to capture through history. Classical composers, whilst not known for their morbidity have often been seduced by death march brass, shuddering strings, percussion trembling like a death rattle. Having spent a lot of time in classical choirs, I once sang one of the most famous odes to death; Mozart’s Requiem, which at the time I did not really appreciate for the work of art it is – I was too busy navigating the complicated counterpoint passages armed with an ancient scorebook that had surely been held by many terrified music students before me. My favourite part of the Requiem was, and always will be Lacrimosa, which Mozart died before completing. Whether this work evokes death for me, is debatable. Death in most cases, isn’t announced with brazen trumpets and rolling timpani. It is quietly devastating, in clinical hospital beds, the smell of bleach, the sound of machine bleeps counting the last signals of life until it slips away like an earring down the drain. Death is unpoetic and guttural, as base as it gets. Outside the hospital room life ticks along as usual, post is delivered, Christmas comes and goes. This is something Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum knows all too well, following the death of his wife and mother to his child, musician, and comic book illustrator Geneviève Castrée. Built upon softly strummed guitar and low drones, the song is entirely lyric focussed, playing like a stream of consciousness as Elverum meditates on his loss and the small things that remind him of his wife. It’s not often that we include a long statement from an artist, but in this case it seems pertinent to share Elverum’s feelings on the subject:
‘In May 2015 they told us Geneviève had a surprise bad cancer, advanced pancreatic, and the ground opened up. ‘What matters now?’ we thought. Then on July 9th 2016 she died at home and I belonged to nobody anymore. My internal moments felt like public property. The idea that I could have a self or personal preferences or songs eroded down into an absurd old idea leftover from a more self-indulgent time before I was a hospital-driver, a caregiver, a child-raiser, a griever. I am open now, and these songs poured out quickly in the fall, watching the days grey over and watching the neighbours across the alley tear down and rebuild their house. I make these songs and put them out into the world just to multiply my voice saying that I love her. I want it known.’
With every listen to this track, his voice is multiplied. It is known.