Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Microphones "Mount Eerie" CD/LP (K Records, 2003)

(CD spine 1, 2, front cover, back cover, inside of case, various pics of the insert foldout, CD top, various pics of CD play-side)

Mount Eerie CD/LP


-Recorded at Dub Narcotic in Olympia, WA. between Nov. 21st 2001 and June 10th 2002. Except (According to the US CD) for the Karl Blau song (which I believe is the middle part of track IV "Mt. Eerie") which was recorded on his 4-track in Anacortes.

-In the Japanese CD and on the vinyl the recording is listed as above and then also: "Big Black Death" by Kyle Field & "Wind/Vultures" by Karl Blau recorded at Quatro-Syncho, Trafton Lake, WA. (these two "tracks" being the 2nd and 3rd "movements" of track IV "Mt. Eerie")

When we get to the "Wise Old Little Boy" DVD post there will be a lot more discussion of that song and its movements. The tour that Kyle and Phil were on in that DVD must have coincided with the release or recording of this album because it is full of footage of them performing songs from this album. The highlights of which being the performances of "Mt. Eerie" with Phil starting the song and then Kyle busting in with his "Big Black Death" parts and Phil getting on the drums. It's seriously intense.

Phil Elvrum-vocals, guitars, bass, organ, piano, Swiss alpenhorn, drums, additional percussion
Adam Forkner-Cowbell and Trumpet on "The Sun,"
Anna Oxygen-Additional vocals on "The Sun," "Mt. Eerie"
Mirah-Additional vocals on "Solar System"
Khaela Maricich-Additional vocals on "Universe" (part 1), "Mt. Eerie"
Calvin Johnson-Additional vocals on "Universe" (part 1)
Jenn Kliese-Additional vocals on "Universe" (part 1), "Mt. Eerie," and "Universe" (part 2)
Kyle Field - Additional vocals and instruments on "Mt. Eerie"
Karl Blau-Additional vocals and instruments on "Mt. Eerie"

as well as the "Precipice Carolers": Kyle Field, Phil Elvrum, Khaela Maricich, Phan Nguyen, Amber Bell, Bethany Hays Parke, Shawn Parke, Hollis Parke, Dennis Driscoll, Zach Alarcon, and Adam Forkner

There is no proper personnel list. The above seems to have been accrued from the liner notes to the US CD. The insert for said CD being a large (and delicate) vellum fold out with a large picture of the Mt. Eerie and an ascending series of song lyrics/explanations/stories and descriptions of who does what. The Japanese disc and the vinyl release do not have this type of insert and lack all of that information. They instead feature 3 different paintings as the outside covers and one large illustration as the inner cover, wherein is listed a slightly different version of the "players":
"Phil"-Phil Elvrum
"Chorus"-Jenn Kliese, Anna Oxygen & Mirah Y.T. Zeitlyn
"Scary Trumpets"-Adam Forkner
"Close Dark Voice"-Mikhaela Maricich
"Universe"-Calvin Johnson
"Precipice Carolers"- Kyle Field, Phil Elvrum, Mikhaela Maricich, Phan Nguyen, Amber Bell, Bethany Haysparke, Shawn Parke, Hollis Parke, Dennis Driscoll, Zach Alarcon, Adam Forkner
"King Dark Death"-Kyle Field
"Wind/Vultures"-Karl Blau

-I believe all the cover art is by Phil, though if there is accreditation I cannot find it so far.

-Released in 2003 on K Records ( (KLP140) and in Japan on 7ep ( (ep007)
Not sure about the release date for the Japanese disc or for the vinyl release and re-release.

-IFPI number: L483 (on the silver) and 81C5 (stamped in the plastic inner groove)(US), LB80 (Japan)

-Barcode info: (lacking this or a pic of the bone sticker for the US release, though on the vinyl reissue there is a barcode number: 78985611406, no idea if this is the same as the barcode info for the first press of the vinyl or the US CD), 5000002919060 (Japan)

-The Japanese discs were pressed in Taiwan and mastered by INFODISC, no information about the US pressing.

-Other details of note:

The US and Japanese CDs differ greatly in appearance. The Japanese disc being almost an exact replica of the vinyl release. And, as is typical, the paper used on the Japanese CD is of a higher quality than US discs, thicker, more tactile.

The Japanese CD comes with an extremely shiny, opaque black CD tray (unlike the more common matte black/gray trays you see on most US CDs).

The Japanese disc has ten bonus tracks, "Universe Conclusion" which I am certain I read somewhere in an interview with Phil was sort of the unsaid denouement to the whole story, not included on the album for reasons I cannot now recall. I'll try to find this and update you.

UPDATE: I read that in the "Headwaters" Book/CDR. At the end of the explanation of the story of Mt. Eerie Phil says that there was an alternate ending that didn't end up being used, and that's "Universe Conclusion". He says he left if off the album because the way the last song ends "got the same idea across".

Here is a point of interest, however. Phil says that this song was included on the "Singing From..." album (and as we will see in the next post, it was), but it was not labeled with this title. In fact (again, in the next post), there is no track listing on the "Singing From..." 10" or CD. When you place the CD in your computer and the track names come up this song is called "Black Night". So, this is, in fact, the only official studio release of "Universe Conclusion" baring the correct title.

One final note on this mysterious song. Pretty much the definitive version of this seems to have been performed at the "Live In Japan" concert. It's over eleven minutes long and sounds like everyone on the album shows up for guest vocals. It's pretty colossal.

So the "Excerpts" section of this disc is, in fact, two tracks ("Samba" & "The Big Black Cloud") from the "Drums From Mt. Eerie" and eight tracks ("Black Night", "The Sun", "Solar System", "Do You Really Think There's Anybody Out There?", "What Do You Want?", "I Watched You From Above", "Big Black Cloud", & "Universe") from "The Singing From Mt. Eerie". But where "Universe Conclusion"/"Black Night" is the first excerpt here, it would have been the last song on the actual "Singing From..." album.

(Japanese version spine 1, 2, front cover in plastic w/ obi strip, back cover in plastic with barcode and obi strip, front and back covers out of plastic and w/out obi strip, spine w/ obi strip, obi strip by itself, insert cover front, back, CD top details, CD play-side details, CD jewel case, various pics of extra Japanese insert)

(First press LP "back cover", stitching detail, front cover in plastic w/ Microphones sticker, close-up of sticker, inside cover, inside fold-out pics, vinyl A and B sides, insert, promo poster)

-Other details of note continued...

The first press of the LP included an insert which explained the process by which the covers were printed and then sewn together by Phil and his friends and family. It tells, in detail, who did what, where they got the thread, what sewing machines were used and so on. I am going to be a little lazy here, but I am going to call it being non-redundant, by not typing out all that info since it is all plainly visible on the picture of the insert I've included.

For a minute I thought there might be some correlation between the pressing and the color of thread used to sew the covers, however, upon further inspection it seems that there are various colors of thread used on both pressings, and I definitely do not have enough examples at this stage to say, without a doubt, that certain colors correspond to certain pressings. My first press is sewn with white thread, my second press with black thread (see pics) but I have seen several copies of different presses go by on ebay with differing colors (see below, a first press with red thread). More on this if I can gather more info.

The first press also seems to have come with (?) A promo poster from K (pictured above). Though, to be fair, I am not certain that this was actually included with the LPs or if it was a stand-alone promo sent to record stores and whatnot, anyone know?

First press vinyl was released in an open plastic record sleeve which had a clear w/ black writing sticker attached to it that says "The Microphones" (pictured above).

There seems to have been no barcode info on the first press of the vinyl.

First press inner inner labels were black with silver writing, whereas the second press labels were silver with black writing. This is the easiest way to differentiate between pressings, especially considering that the inner groove info is identical on both pressings, the usual KLP and number+A or B and this other number which I don't know the significance of, 8105 (2) on both sides.

The inner labels look like the typical Phil drawing and handwriting, though there is no credit given for them.

On the B-side label there is a little note which suggests "Try headphones!"

The second press of the vinyl had no insert, no poster, no sticker on the plastic. It was, however, released in one of those "sealed" plastic sleeves. The kind that have a small perforated strip at the top that you can tear off.

Additionally they had a barcode sticker attached to the back (pictured below)

(LP second press "back cover", barcode on plastic, stitching detail, pic from ebay showing different color stitching, LP side A and B)

There was also a sort of informal 3rd pressing of this record so to speak. Though I am sadly lacking in the details. I wish I had been taking screencaps from the the PW Elverum site. He had some copies of the LP to sell on tour and through the site for part of 2010. I can't now recall if it was one of those deals (which actually seem to happen a lot with Phil, as a matter of fact as of this writing, 9-20-11, he's doing the same thing with "The Drums From No Flashlight" LP) where Phil "found" a box of these LPs sitting around somewhere and so they decided to print up covers and sell them. Or it was the other way around, found the covers and pressed some records. But I really think I remember it being the former. Anyway, below is a pic of some of said covers from that time, along with a stack of What Tha Heck Fest 3 day passes which was posted over on MEPS by scotchpenicillin which I am using totally without permission, sorry. It comes from this thread:

A nice little review here:

Also, as of this update (Sept. 2011) Phil is distributing the cd version through the PW site. Here's what he has to say about it:

and that link goes to the Wikipedia page:


Some of the Phil "themes" that we know and love come up herein (I mean aside from death and rebirth and all that), such as wind and lanterns, in "Solar System" (which we have seen in "Lanterns" and later in the Wind's Poem" LP, respectively) moreover, on "Solar System" the main body of the song has the same feel and cadence as most of the "2" songs on "No Flashlight".
We get another reprisal of the "in the air" theme on "II. Universe" "...and I know you'll be in the air...". I'll touch on this again when I get to the post about the Jimi Sharp cassette, but it was a real revelation to me when I heard the end of side two of that tape. There are a few tracks at the end, credited to Karl Blau and also The Piranhas which feature someone singing over top of the main vocals in this tremendously creepy slowed-down voice very much like the "Wind/Vultures" portion of "IV. Mt. Eerie". In particular "Sunglassez". It was a big moment for me hearing those tracks, it helped me to understand that portion of the Mt. Eerie LP that much more, in a historical sense. Oh, this is where that comes from...

This record was, at the time, and still is, easily my favorite thing Phil has ever done. This came out just a little bit after the the time that I was finally "getting" his stuff and it just really perfectly encapsulated all of it in one seriously epic package. The beautiful a cappella work, the huge elementary school choruses, the gentle vocals, the obsession with percussion and long percussive tracks breaking up the more song-oriented material, the tiny moments of pop perfection and hooks set into the vast rocky crags of noise and cacophony, the mysterious guest vocals, the obsession wit death and rebirth, the inscrutable high-concepts. One of the interesting things about this record is that it manages to be really so epic but clocks in at just over forty minutes.

This record is house to, what I, and I think some of my closest friends would argue is the best hook Phil ever wrote, and abandoned, in "III. Universe". Amidst one of, also, the catchiest drum cadences he's ever employed Mikhaela, ghostly intoning " you. really. think. there's anybody out there...?" It's one of those perfect moments in a song that you feel, deep inside, the reverberation of, that you feel, in your deepest universal sense of symmetry, ought to be come back to, repeated, anything. Not just sung once and echoed away from, as it is here.

This was a huge record for the KINGS, hence it's mix-positioning at the number 3 and 100 and 101 positions in the chart. "Universe" still ranks as almost my favorite Phil song ever, and, thusly, mix 3 is correspondingly huge for all of us. We had a seriously revelatory moment when we got to mix 100 (Mt. Eerie) which I will not bore you (the general public who have come to this site for Phil info, not personal rants) with here.

This record came along at what would, in retrospect, prove to be a pivotal point in my life. I can recall distinctly, listening to this album and that song in particular, on the night that, really, everything changed for me. This record, that song, was playing at a moment when I can honestly say I made a weird, maybe bad choice and my life went in a very, very different direction as a result. This record was playing at one of those moments in your life when you feel like maybe you made the wrong choice. Maybe you did the wrong thing and went off down a different path than you should have. There aren't many I guess. I, like many, try to have faith that I am being guided along to where I should be and when by well, appropriately enough, THE UNIVERSE. But sometimes things just get so fucked up that you have to trace it back and wonder, man, did I do the wrong thing? Was I supposed to do something different than I did? That song played and ended and I left my apartment, out into the black night and into the rest of my life. In the end, however, all this time later, I look back on the chain of events and they make a sort of sense, leading to where I am now and what's happening in my life now. And for that I am grateful, because things are really quite wonderful now.

I guess it is apropos really. This record was a turning point for Phil as well. This record feels like the culmination of the entire Microphones part of his life and output. Yeah, yeah, everyone is going to tell you that The Glow Pt.2 is the best Phil album, and I can accept that it's the most universally digestible and understandable and it does have more of a Sgt. Pepper scope than this album. But I will never sway in my conviction that this is his apex. This is the most important thing that he had done up to that point, and maybe since.

It is worth noting that this is the last actual "album" released as The Microphones. It was shortly after this that Phil decided, for various personal reasons/traumas, that he was going to move north of the arctic circle indefinitely. The results of which we will be discussing at length sometime in the future on the first "Mount Eerie" releases. There would still be one more proper Microphones release from this time period (and man do I remember that coming out. Not long after all of these events in my life, "Live in Japan" showed up. I'd guess it was probably, for Phil, what the corresponding [in their career arcs] Nirvana release [MTV Unplugged] was: a weird, dashed-off, live footnote left as a final note. The major difference being, well, Phil is not a drug addict and is not a negative suicidal person, like Kurt was, [Phil's wife is also way, way, way, more awesome than Courtney] and is very much alive, unlike Mr. Cobain) There would also, later be another sort of unrelated return/lark release under the Microphones moniker. But, for all intents and purposes we will present this, here, as the final Microphones album.

There will, undoubtedly, be a lot more to say about this album as we go, there is still, after all, the drums and singing from Mt. Eerie to be posted about, as well as, even more importantly, the Headwaters of Mt. Eerie release. I will try to get to these asap so that we can continue this perusal/consideration of this moment in Phil's career.

(--101, --031, --003, --100, --103)

Tracklist (Vinyl)
Side A:

I. The Sun
II. Solar System

Side B:

III. Universe
IV. Mt. Eerie
V. Universe

Tracklist (CD)
I. The Sun
II. Solar System
III. Universe
IV. Mt. Eerie
V. Universe

Tracklist (Japanese edition CD)
The Sun
Solar System
Mt. Eerie
Universe Conclusion (Which is actually "Black Night" from Singing)
Excerpt: Samba (Drums)
Excerpt: The Sun (Singing)
Excerpt: Solar System (Singing)
Excerpt: Do You Really Think There's Anybody Out There? (Singing)
Excerpt: What Do You Want? (Singing)
Excerpt: I Watched You From Above (Singing)
Excerpt: Bog Black Cloud (Singing)
Excerpt: The Big Black Cloud (Drums)

(It is worth noting that both on the Japanese CD and insert and also on the track info when you put the disc in the computer, the bonus tracks, aside from "Universe Conclusion" are simply listed as "Excerpt" and a corresponding number. I have gone ahead and filled in what "Drums" or "Songs" the excerpts correspond to, but on the disc itself and in the computer they are all just named "Excerpt". It is also worth noting that the track times on the Japanese release and the US release are ever-so-slightly different. Usually give or take a second or two from song to song.)