Phil Elverum, formerly of The Microphones and the current mastermind behind Mount Eerie
, has released the second single from his upcoming album Now Only
, titled "Tintin In Tibet". Like its predecessor "Distortion" and Mount Eerie's previous album A Crow Looked at Me,
the song is addressed to his late wife Genevieve Castree Elverum.
For the unacquainted, Genevieve Elverum passed away in 2016 following a battle with inoperable pancreatic cancer. A talented cartoonist and visual artist, she was also well-respected as a musician, gaining some critical acclaim for her projects Woelv and O Paon. In the wake of her death Elverum, under the Mount Eerie moniker, crafted A Crow Looked at Me
, an aching rumination on her death and the grieving process. Described by Elverum as "barely music", it is less a musical album and more a sonic expression of emotions too large, painful and complex to convey in any other manner.
Mount Eerie's "Distortion" built upon this theme, though in it and today's new track "Tintin In Tibet", we also see the seeds of something else beginning to germinate. The undirected hollowness in A Crow Looked at Me
begins to break away, even if only piecemeal, ceding to another step in the grieving process. With nearly a year passed since the release of that album, Elverum uses "Tintin In Tibet" to reflect on that interlude, and the journey he shared with not his wife, but some piece of her in one form or another. Haunting imagery gives way to something that is equally painful, though decisively less bleak, memory.
While memories were explored in the 11-minute miasma that was "Distortion", they were vague and numerous, too many to count or focus on coherently. With "Tintin in Tibet" Elverum revisits these memories with a clarity and purpose that sharpens the details, bringing to light moments sublime, captivating and still very, very tender. Over a quickened acoustic track Elverum recalls poignant scenes from the couple's time together, building each memory off back of the last with frenetic energy until, like a whirling dervish he threatens to approach a state of transcendency that denies the reality of his situation. Ultimately he returns to the grounded state of being that begins the song with, acutely aware that he can only sing to memory of his late wife, and not the woman he shared a life with. It's still devastatingly painful, but in between the lines there is a sense that the healing process is continuing to unfold, step by harrowing step.
While I wouldn't posit that "Tintin In Tibet", along with the rest of Mount Eerie's work from the last year and change, are required listening for everyone, they do occupy a special place in our current era and climate. With all the pain and heartache this world subjects us to we can watch as Elverum forges his own path, and perhaps if we are willing, join him in turning grief into something brighter.
is out March 16.