Microphones in 2020
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The true state of all things: I keep on not dying, the sun keeps on rising. I remember my life as if it's just some dreams that I don't trust, burning off, layered thick, a cargo that I haul, wounds and loves unresolved. I wake up with the sun in my eyes. The present moment tries but now I'm back where I was when I was 20, crashing through salal alone and mumbling, one moment thinking I'm wise and in the next one I writhe, trying to re-remind myself of something learned then forgotten. Countless sunrises burying the things I'd figured out the day before. Like that I probably won't find shelter in the arms of any other person though I will try. Again I'll deny the blanketing sky, the thing I just realized for probably the millionth time, that walking with my knees trembling is the true state of all things. The true state of all things is a waterfall with no bottom crashing end and no ledge to plummet off full of debris and flowers, never not falling, and in it we swim and fall. Sometimes beside, often apart. It's just chaos heaving. I wake up with the sun in my eyes beneath present moment skies, squinting and wondering how I got here. Going through the contents of my backpack, shaking out the dust to bring some empty space back, filling a long merch table with artifacts, looking back to see if I could draw a map that leads to now. I remember where I was when I was 20 or 17 or 23. The disinterested sun would still rise every morning same as now. Dawn was loud. I took my breakfast to the couch on the porch of the punk house. Coffee and low tide smell and my life stretching out. Spending hours each morning reading poems and staring off and then snapping back to urgency, I did my dishes then I would sprint to the studio again. Spend all day and night digging in, distorted bass, spliced tape, singing lines like there's no end and I won't look for you in my room about my friends. I checked email@example.com like once a week. I would drive out to the ocean and not tell anybody. I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in a dollar theater in Aberdeen. It was a rainy matinee 2001, Sunday, March 18th, and in the parking lot afterward for a few minutes in the rain I stood glowing with ideas of what I might try to convey with this music. At that moment my mind flashing like a blade. A 22 year old in flip flops running around in an empty mall parking lot lost in a martial arts fantasy, it looks ridiculous now but the truth is: alone there something was formed. The way they held themselves upright with tea in the opening scenes, a warm formality, spines straight and feet planted wide, un-tip-over-able like the bamboo'd undulating hills, walking slowly, making eye contact, gliding, the sound of empty wind when they sword-fought weightless in the bamboo with a purity of heart that transcends gravity leaping off the mountain into ambiguity falling slow as the end credits rolled. I decided I would try to make music that contained this deeper peace buried underneath distorted bass, fog imbued with light and emptiness, I kept on driving out to the ocean. It was raining so hard, I was wet wool caked with sand. I watched the dunes migrate slowly. Lost mind in the tall grass Slowly the sound of roaring waves returned. I rose. I returned to my station wagon with a wet face. Extravagant solitude invigorates. I drove back to Olympia clear headed temporarily and went back into the studio to resume whatever this thing is: this spooling out repetitive decades-long song string, this river coursing through my life, these wild swipes at meaning. Now I circle back to look into the spring. When I was 17 it was 1995. I put the name Microphones on the tapes I would make late at night after work at the record store. I was already by then a couple years deep into this weird pursuit playing drums, copying lyrics out to hang them in my room until I started making my own embarrassing early tries at this thing that sings at night above the house, branches in the wind bending wordlessly. I wanted to capture it on tape. At first I called my recordings a different name. I called it the Microphones on the 3rd cassette I made. I loved recording and the equipment seemed to be living and it sang to me like static interference from the small AM radio station down the street, night in Anacortes in the mid 90's, oil tankers rumbling. I stayed late recording every night then I drove back to my parents' house. My headlights through the trees along Heart Lake Road, Winding down the dark slope beneath Mount Erie, I was already who I am: a bottle of india ink, masking tape, a cardboard box of dubbed cassettes, Julie Doiron, Tori Amos, Cranberries, Sinead O'Connor, Eric's Trip, Red House Painters, Sonic Youth, This Mortal Coil, Kurt Cobain had died. I had my driver's license and a girlfriend and we'd cling to each other and dream that anything's permanent. Even back then the beast of uninvited change insisted itself in, and look here it still hangs but when I was young I'd go driving in the rain. I saw Stereolab in Bellingham and they played one chord for fifteen minutes. Something in me shifted. I brought back home belief I could create eternity. Leaning the guitar up on the amp, taping down organ keys, feeding back forever, distorted waves of cymbals oceany. Slowly starting to try to move the words beyond mere melancholy into something that rings true and old and useful hopefully, but when I was 17 I sang in the moment hurt romantically, grasping in the dark, like shadows of the moon on the back of the car seat where she sat once. It's not that bad but I know I wanted to go deeper, beneath pain, beneath the human. Is it because my parents barely had any money and preferred to leave the baby in the garden that I grew up to blur the boundary between myself and the actual churning dirt of this place, that it feels normal to me to speak with the voice of weather, to build and move into a mirage made of songs cascading down a rock face in a homemade myth? Even deeper back into the mist: when I was 12 or 13 on a family trip we hiked down a steep bluff to an ocean beach in whipping rain. My little brother's clothes got wet from playing in the winter waves. My parents made a fire of smokey driftwood and we huddled in and took his wet clothes off and held him naked above the flames. Smelling like smoke and salt on the drive home, surely this experience explains something about whoever it was that sang all these songs. When you're younger every single thing vibrates with significance. Gazing at the details in the artwork of a 7, devouring every word in a zine, there was barely internet. Meaning gets attributed wherever appetite bestows a thing with resonating glowing ringing out through a life. What from these times do I carry with me still? The things I survive return repeatedly and I find again that I am a newborn every time. When I wake alone in the dark again I swim out into the lake of the heart and in. When I got back to Olympia from the ocean I woke up early before dawn to start recording. The things I wanted to communicate had to do with finding how to break out from seeing only the inside of reflected ocean on the sky. It was early 2001 and I was almost 23. I'd finished recording the Glow pt. 2 and I was either always on tour or setting up a tour, always running, voracious, thirsty. I'd go out to the lake with friends, swim out to the middle and dive as far as I could down to where the water gets cold, with open eyes. We'd go up on the roof at night and actually contemplate the moon. My friends and I trying to blow each others' minds just lying there gazing, young and ridiculous and we meant it, our eyes watering. The moon without abstraction then became a floating ball of rock in outer space, not a sticker or a light or a hole through black paper. We were making food and records and paintings and walking around beneath a
Written by: Phil Elverum
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