Despite opening with the same heart-thuds and shuddering bell-blows that closed its predecessor, The Glow Pt. 2, Mount Erie marks a significant stylistic break for lone Microphone Phil Elvrum: abstract and epic, Mount Erie eschews typical doe-eyed indie introspection to tackle larger notions of life, death and existential purpose.
A bizarre concept album in five sprawling parts, Mount Erie traces the path of a narrator (Elvrum) driven by his overwhelming fear of death to scale a colossal peak (Mount Erie). Elvrum employs a variety of lo-fi tricks along the way, each carefully selected to suit his narrative needs: "Solar System" shifts gracefully from brash, fuzz-laden assault to gentle acoustic lament (complete with soft, puppy-dog vocals), while 17-minute opener "The Sun" somersaults through a barrage of sonic choices, ranging from distortion-drenched guitar to Greek chorus nay-saying.
Based on the real-life peak of the same name (which towers over Elvrum's childhood home of Fidalgo Island, Washington), and populated by the voices of Elvrum's friends (K Records founder Calvin Johnson tellingly voices the Universe), Mount Erie is an intensely personal — if occasionally tedious — spiritual statement. Still, if you're willing to breathe deep and indulge the gravity of Elvrum's quest, the results can be oddly devastating.