This review has been a long time coming. I was hesitant though. Phil Elverum’s music seems too sacred and too special to actually be able to write a competent review. Considering my biases, I will have to give this review on two levels: one for Phil Elverum fans and on another level for those less familiar with his work.
For non fans this album is probably about a 5.5; an interesting listen, a different sound, but a bit too quiet, quirky and boarders on boring. No Flashlight isn’t necessarily too challenging to listen to, but it is probably not worth the effort for those who are not aware of Phil’s body of work. I will still recommend this album to the album to the casual listener because Mount Eerie makes some unique music and No Flashlight is the probably the most unique offering to date. I’ll try to give the unfamiliar an idea of what mount eerie is.
Gently picked guitar, fuzzed melodica hums, subdued bassy percussion and sandpaper are the backdrop for the songs. The album is night and subterranean. It is wet in the moonlight. It is dew on your eyelashes. No Flashlight is sitting on the bank of a lake looking at reflections. Phil himself tells us what No Flashlight means in the song by the same name: “No Flashlight means there is another world and it’s inside this one.” You don’t have a flashlight because you forgot but because you want to embrace the dark and know the dark; “turning off the light is being welcomed home . . . crawling in the dark saying “no flashlight” is saying yes to everything else.”
The album is almost worth purchasing for the giant artwork: a beautiful black and gray scene of sparse foggy unwelcoming hills, clouds, and rocks with a figure in the foreground. The flipside is composed of clippings, lyrics, and thoughts on each song.
As for the insight that I can offer to Phil fans; at first I did not like this album. I could not understand the murky production and I did not necessarily like the new evolved “sound”. As always for Phil, the strength of this album lies in the lyrics. This is what really sold me on No Flashlight. Once I listened to the words and read the notes on the songs the music and production made sense. As Phil said in his RMR interview this is somewhat of a departure for Mount Eerie. The new style offers more insight into the world of Mount Eerie. To borrow an idea from a clipping in the album notes; “Enlightenment does not divide you, Justas the moon[‘s reflection] does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky.” No Flashlight reflects the world as Phil sees it (just as the entire sky can be reflected in a dew drop) and that perspective (and subsequent enlightenment) is a beautiful thing.
Release date: August 16, 2005
Rating: 8.5 / 10
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