Phil Elverum has never been a fan of convention. His work with The Microphones always pushed the boundaries in the already experimental world of lo-fi indie rock. When he began producing music under the name Mount Eerie in 2004, the work he did with The Microphones seemed relatively normal in comparison. His latest pair of records is especially far removed from any notion of traditional indie-rock. The first, Clear Moon, which was released earlier this year to rave reviews, contains a series of gentle, sustained keyboard notes; textured guitar work; and sparse, soft-spoken vocals. Ocean Roar is like the dark, dissonant companion piece — the opposite side of the same coin.
Like Clear Moon, Ocean Roar contains long, repetitive swells of keyboards and guitar noodling, but the effect is much more unsettling than on Clear Moon. What both albums lack — at least compared to most experimental post-rock music — is dynamics. Listeners are not supposed to follow an emotional arc; they are supposed to get lost in its sameness. Ocean Roar is the audio equivalent of staring at the dark, fog-covered ocean from the edge of a pier late at night — nothing changes except for the listener’s perception of what he or she is hearing, and details of the music’s emotions emerge only after continued contemplation.
In other words, the music does not command attention. Instead, it simply exists for whoever wishes to listen. Elverum’s gentle, interspersed vocals seem to provide the only moments of release from the album’s quiet intensity. (P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd)