Mount Eerie – Sauna
Phil Elverum is an odd sort of cat, crafting drawn-out ambient folk songs that every once in a while erupt into jagged, distorted sections that edge up into black metal. Sauna sticks mostly to the ambient drone-folk part, eschewing the black metal influences that characterized previous highlights like Wind’s Poem except for the more obvious “Boats”. For the most part this is okay, since Elverum’s strengths lie in exactly this sort of music. A lot of it stems from the surroundings Elverum records in: the quiet, pastoral wilderness of his home on the island of Anacortes, Washington. Like the remote places it springs from, Sauna can be equal parts contemplative relaxation and rumination, and unease over things felt rather than seen. “Books” is the clearest example of this dichotomy, since it starts off as the former and splits into the latter with a jarring suddenness, but “Pumpkin” layers in some dread alongside its purely quotidian walk to the village, and “Emptiness” goes one step further by using a droning synth to cause deep-seated paranoia in the listener. “Spring”, clocking in at over thirteen minutes, throws everything together into one cacophonous brew of squalling feedback, planet-sized organ noise, string, bells, etc. It’s a very subtle album, one whose charms are not immediately apparent on first listen; for those into quiet folk, ambient music, or drone, there’s a lot to like.