If enthusiasm for Mount Eerie had waned in the years-long hiatus of the Washington-based, Phil Elverum-helmed outfit, it didn’t show. A boisterously affectionate crowd, packed into Portland’s intimate Mississippi Studios and spewing accolades during every brief silence, handily proved otherwise. Sparing little from Ocean Roar and Clear Moon for a setlist dominated by the twin 2012 LPs, Elverum and company drifted through over a dozen of the band’s latest cuts, moody reveries and dirges awash in noise and dissonance. Elverum in a simple black T-shirt and khakis, Mount Eerie’s bashfully modest frontman led the reinvigorated fivesome through an appropriately humble, though no less expansive, series of tracks spanning their recent, colossally coastal output.
“Pale Lights” set the (slowed yet unpredictably incendiary) tempo early – “Who’s there?/ I call/ A small yelp on the wind/ And then more roaring” – as the band were befittingly cast in pale green light. Not one to let slip the opportunity to drive the point home, they transitioned directly to the sparse, woozy “the Place I Live.” Sawing fuzz, waves of reverb, drenched guitar, wobbly synth and squeezebox lines – these elements, each corresponding to some natural feature populating Elverum’s north Pacific island existence – were the primary commodities dealt in that evening. Clear Moon’s “House Shape” fanned out like waves in a tidal swell that eventually left the full, undulating sound of its beginnings denuded.
Dense, lush “Pale Lights” followup, Ocean Roar’s gently lilting title track, came later. Lifted by percussive pep, slyly juxtaposed against it was the thrash of Dawn’s “Who?” scrawling lines on the venue’s walls. “Yawning Sky” made a hefty appearance, and skittering “Lone Bell” had its rougher edges eaten away at by persistent synth phrases – brushed off into nothingness, effortlessly, at the song’s close.
Mount Eerie, or more particularly Elverum, remains one of the foremost casual purveyors of popular noise. During their set, the waves from the stage crashed as one creeping ambiance, in cascades that the many long-haired enthusiasts of all genders couldn’t overcome expressing satisfaction with in howls and yelps. Returning to peddling razor-backed squalls, Elverum’s 12-string, helpful drums pouring in to give the plasmatic skuzz some spine, led Mount Eerie through a few unexpected encore tracks (“Honestly, we were finished,” Elverum deadpanned upon coming back onstage). Blazing through heady instrumental stretches and bits of near a cappella, their residual presence “lost in a fog” drifted wearily through droning strikes, slamming percussion and then gave way once more to opened up riffs and that green light.
In primarily favoring edge over melody, Mount Eerie carved out a set more discordant than Elverum’s now-distant, quietly saccharine back catalog would have suggested. But in hammering home the monolithic soundscapes of the group’s nature-aping dual LPs, the renditions were strangely faithful to the feel if not form of each track as recorded. As a measured presentation of musical topography, etching out the lines of Mount Eerie’s namesake crag, this particular set from Elverum and friends was perhaps most successful.