Under his two solo monikers, The Microphones and Mount Eerie, Phil Elverum’s been going at it for nearly 15 years now, which in the traditional rock ‘n’ roll narrative makes it high time to release a live album. So, drawing on a fall 2011 set in the bustling metropolis of Bloomington, IN, Elverum emerges with the requisite Mount Eerie live recording, Live In Bloomington, September 30th, 2011.
But Elverum doesn’t adhere to rock ‘n’ roll narratives. Though the moment for a retrospective is ripe (a year after two acclaimed records), when you consider that Live in Bloomington is actually Elverum’s third official live album in the last 15 years, things start to seem more like rock ‘n’ roll excess than fulfilling a traditional career arc. However, like Elverum’s previous two live albums, Live In Bloomington isn’t just a straight-up run through Mount Eerie’s greatest hits. It functions as a compelling document of what a Phil Elverum live set can be: a complete deconstruction of one of America’s greatest growing songbooks.
Elverum, accompanied by Nicholas Krgovich and Julia Chirka of NO KIDS on dueling keyboards and vocals, broke out some older cuts (It Was Hot And We Stayed In The Water’s “Karl Blau”) and a number from the then-yet to be released Clear Moon. But the beauty here isn’t in the setlist—it’s in their Angelo Badalamenti-indebted rearrangements. After Elverum showcases his awkward sense of humor on the introduction, these rearrangements use Twin Peaks’ keyboard tones (especially explicitly on “Between Two Mysteries”) as shorthand for the hollow creep of the Pacific Northwest. It’s pretty much the antithesis of the homey, personable, loft show feel that Elverum offered on Live In Copenhagen, but it serves to further underscore his skill as a live performer.
Unless you’re someone like Phish, you’re probably not going to try to put out a live record as frequently as Elverum does, but Live In Bloomington and its compelling reinterpretations justifies its own existence.
Essential Tracks: “Karl Blau”, “The Place Lives”