“Kids grow up in five different places and return to nowhere,” Phil Elverum, the man behind solo project Mount Eerie (formerly the Microphones), told The Believer in 2009. It was the year he released Wind’s Poem, a turbulent, black metal-influenced album he wrote while weathering a winter of his own emotional durm und strang in Norway. But for all of Elverum’s battles with, and musings on, displacement, Clear Moon is no other than a testament to what it means to return home.
A foggy, brooding melancholia permeates Clear Moon—along with the nature allegories and narrative, confessional lyrics Elverum largely became known for after the Microphones’ 2003 album The Glow Pt. 2. But with the first few resonant, whole chords of “Through The Trees Pt. 2,” it’s apparent that this sound is one that has followed a restoration—one that the rest of the album unpacks carefully, at times still roiling with the remnant violence of Wind’s Poem (see “The Mouth Of Sky”). It’s a tension always threatening to rip apart Clear Moon’s fragile, new calm, one he composed in a converted Catholic church in his hometown, in a studio he built himself.
“I go on describing this place and the way it feels,” Elverum sings, by way of explaining the ruminations to follow. “It’s hard to describe without seeming absurd.” He has a point. Trees, the wind, the moon—they’re accessible, but too much repetition falls short of meditation and lands in kitsch. But the beauty of Elverum’s place-based songwriting is that you don’t need to be a disciple of Annie Dillard to navigate his world. Clear Moon lends itself as much to a good pair of headphones and an open window as it is does to mountains.