On Deck is a column dedicated to giving artists some room to talk about what they’re currently listening to and to explore some of their favorite and most influential records.
2012 turned out to be a very busy year for Phil Elverum. Not content to just give fans one more Mount Eerie album and a possible supporting tour, he went and released two proper albums of dense cathartic noise and layered interconnectivity. These two albums shared distinct similarities but never felt beholden to each other as musical reference points–though they certainly were. Clear Moon felt like the light that pushes against the fog on a cold October morning, while Ocean Roar was the threatening darkness that falls across everything at night. In these two towering records, Elverum had given us a balanced dichotomy in music. As much they could be described as opposite sides of the same coin, there were tracks on both albums which hinted at a deeper and more communal relationship between them. Look one way and you would see and hear Clear Moon, but change your viewpoint by just a few degrees and you would hear Ocean Roar. Always the master architect, Phil Elverum has constructed a colossal monument to the balance that exists in the world and how the differences of each side are only a matter of personal perspective.
Recently, a few days before Christmas in fact, Elverum sat down for Beats Per Minute and wrote about a few of the records which have been circulating in his own collection. From traditional Malian music to Elizabeth Fraser, Elverum’s list draws from vastly different arenas of music. Check out his list in our latest installment of On Deck below.
A few weeks ago I was in New York City for a couple days and I happened to see a guy playing a kora (traditional gourd/harp instrument from Mali) and singing in the subway. It was so beautiful, especially there in the resonant subway tunnels with people rushing everywhere. Regrettably, I did the asshole thing of not giving him money and recording a few minutes of the sound on my phone while cowering behind a pillar. It was a big mistake. Now I am searching the internet for music that captures the amazing feeling of this man jamming in the tunnels. This has led me to get into the famous players of the kora, among them Toumani Diabaté. I like the way this instrument sounds like infinite layers of notes, beyond deep. Also, right on the edge of chaos, like sparkling light on water or something.
I have loved this band and this album for a long time, but they’ve been on my mind recently because they played some shows in my area and I went to see them 2 nights in a row, in Bellingham and Seattle. I almost never go to shows and I almost never get excited about music anymore, honestly, so it was nice to rediscover that feeling of being a fan and remember the true thrill of being enraptured by music to the point where I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and see the same show 2 nights in a row. I went with my old friend from teenage years (we also went to see Nirvana together on the Nevermind tour). Sunn O))) is one of my favorite things to experience. I love it. They discovered a sound (maximum loud distorted bass) and a picture (amp wall in fog, hooded figures) that does not need to change, and the “music” is actually complex and beautiful and new. It is a good sculpture.
I was on tour in Japan in November and we got to play a show with Tori Kudo (the center of Maher Shalal Hash Baz) and then were lucky enough to do an impromptu recording session with him the next morning. This man is a mysterious legitimate musical genius who has been making true unusual music for many years. I’m no expert, but this is my impression. Just a fountain of constant re-invention. It was very exciting to get to see this guy at work. So now, since the trip, I’ve been going deep with the different Maher Shalal Hash Baz artifacts, particularly Return Visit To Rock Mass.
I totally hate christmas (insane family gift abuse mostly) and christmas music (omnipresent brain assault) but my friend Nicholas Krgovich has now made 2 incredible short collections of awkwardly sexy christmas songs, made up in the hiphop “mix tape” style out of looped samples of popular hits. I think he does these just to keep his skills honed for his own legitimately amazing music, but the results are powerful enough to compel me to forget my aversion to all this obnoxious christmas stuff. I am blasting it right now. It is here for free: http://nicholaskrgovich.bandcamp.com/album/the-return-of-christmastime
It’s a b-side on the single for “Bluebeard.” It features more layers of Elizabeth Fraser doing those freestyle non-lyrical vocal filler things. I have been thinking about those weird vocal decorations lately, and the Cocteau Twins thing of layering them beyond recognition, like an overgrown path through a jungle, or like the voiceovers in a Terrence Malick movie. Internal thoughts and actual real world words overlapping and interrupting. This is what living feels like to me and I want to try to make music like this somehow, so I listen to this and ponder…