The sauna that this album was inspired by is not a sauna that actually exists anywhere. It is about the idea of a small man-made wooden room crushed beneath a universe’s worth of bad weather; a concentration of extreme heat within a vast tough world. Inside this deliberate space a transformation occurs. The exaggerated atmosphere of flames, steam, smoke and dim light obliterate the usual sensations and new kinds of perception are exposed. Then the shocking plunge under cold water and the razor sword through sky.
This is the same transformative potential of music, at least the kind of music that MOUNT EERIE has been attempting for the past few years. Carefully built worlds of sound and sensation, large weights and clear ideas, depth shown through simple moments. The singer is standing on the street in the rain, considering whether she hears a tractor idling or maybe an ancient memory of a mammoth tearing through brush. The view through the big windows at the airport in 2014.
SAUNA is described as an “ultimate” MOUNT EERIE album, and something about it does feel final, or perhaps the beginning of something new and big. The thematic reference points are “vikings, zen, and real life” and the songs narrow these ideas to tight moments. The album is a honed thesis.
The compositions are complicated and grown-up, the instrumentation is gnarly and big, the pictures are painted bright. Recorded fully analog on 24 tracks at the Unknown (the reclaimed old wood church in Anacortes, Washington), this is certainly the most “hi-fi” Mount Eerie album ever made, while still sounding as raw as low tide in November. Phil Elverum is joined by singers Allyson Foster and Ashley Eriksson, cutting through the jet noise roar of the music with clear harmonic counterpoints.
Gongs flange, distorted bass arches its back, organs blanket the room, the piano is half-swallowed. Are those drums or lumber? Flutes or laughter? Actual audible steam hangs in the branches.
two high fidelity 45rpm 12 inches / white vinyl / gatefold tip-on jacket / giant poster
12 songs / 55:10
(released as ELV036, Feb. 3rd, 2015)