Phil Elverum began his shambling psych-pop effort The Microphones during the late '90s, mixing fuzzy drone, pastoral songwriter folk, and lo-fi experimentation in music that often is as shrouded in sounds as his Olympia, Washington home is in clouds. He scotched the moniker after 2003's moribund concept album Mount Eerie, taking the new name while continuing to explore similar, expressionistic territory. The tone is, perhaps, more often desolate and spare, though the technique ranges widely from burbling electronics and waves of distortion to creepy acoustic folk reminiscent of Palace Brothers. His most recent release, Lost Wisdom, is among his best. It was recorded quickly with one his idols, former Eric's Trip singer Julie Doiron, and guitarist Fred Squire. Without any of Elverum's typical textural overdubs or sonic washes to coat the tracks, there's a delicate, understated simplicity that serves only to highlight the emotional ache at the center of these 10 songs. Doiron's sad, beautiful voice wonderfully harmonizes with his, offering an icy, spectral centerpiece to the haunted, searching songs. "It's not meant to be a struggle uphill," they sing on "Voice in Headphones," while "Grave Robbers" notes how what haunts us confines us, stealing our life away.
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