I love almost all the records that Phil Elverum has released. Either as The Microphones, or later, when he changed his “band” name to Mount Eerie, I’ve always eagerly awaited his creative output and put special time aside to listen to each one in full for the first time. Within The Darcys, I am alone in my appreciation of Phil Elverum. The first few tours we went on I tried my best to push my enjoyment of Elverum’s work on to the other members of the band, by saying things like “Oh, you just have to listen to all of it really loud, and understand it’s all recorded to tape!” and “He did this all by himself! With borrowed gear and only two microphones!” This usually fell on to deaf ears, until one day I finally gave up. Now while we’re on tour, Elverum’s discography remains confined to my headphones, either lounging in the back of the van during a long drive, or late at night before falling asleep. I have accepted this.
For some reason, 2005’s No Flashlight: Songs of the Fulfilled Night is the one I hold in highest regard. On everything Phil Elverum releases, he seems to create an entire world to envelope the listener, but something about No Flashlight sticks out to me. Critically, the album was received very poorly. Pitchfork Media, the music blog that gave his previous record Mount Eerie an 8.9 and named it Best New Music, and The Glow Pt. 2 before that a 9.3 and crowned it the Best Record of 2001, called No Flashlight a “textural train-wreck that sabotages the music before one can focus on lyrics or guitar lines.” But even though his work has never been a very “easy” listen, with No Flashlight Phil seems to go deeper into the rabbit hole that he himself created. It’s almost as if he’s used every previous release to build a universe, and now with No Flashlight he is fully immersed and living in his created cosmos, unaware and unaffected by the thoughts and opinions of others. This is what fascinates me.
On No Flashlight, Phil Elverum doesn’t give a fuck what you or I think, and this allows for something truly interesting and personal to be created. There are long drones of washed out guitars and synthesizers, drums that were actually just water coolers banged together, singing with little to no melody, field recordings of wolves howling in the distance, and a whole lot of tape hiss. Honestly, as I read that last sentence back, it sounds terrible. It doesn’t come across as a record anyone would enjoy, but something inside just resonates with me. More than anyone else I know of, he seems to use the actual tape machine as an instrument, pushing extremely hot signal into it to get a tape distortion sound unlike any I’ve ever heard. If you want a record that is easy to get into, you shouldn’t even bother with this album. But if you feel like challenging your tastes a bit, I would recommend giving this a shot. And hey, if you hate it, I totally understand.