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Surroundings Into Sound

Living in the Northwest you grow accustomed to rain, cool breezes and gray skies — but also the opposite — sun and blue and warmth. The truth of this place is that nothing is permanent and there is always change, both in the weather and the geography. Washington’s Mount Eerie explores these contrasts in their latest release Ocean Roar, a cycle of music that ranges from hush-hush indie ballads to loud, undulating and miasmic guitar-noise experiments. Coursing though it all is an exploration of loud and soft, like a thunderstorm breaking over the Cascades into serene blue skies. “I like those juxtapositions because they’re powerful. I don’t know why I’m drawn to them,” Mount Eerie mastermind Phil Elvrum says. 

Based in the small Puget Sound city of Anacortes, Elvrum works mainly alone building his soundscapes out of his head, explaining his work is “more like a collage or a painting or a sculpture. Most of the albums I’ve ever made have been studio-based things.” Ocean Roar opens with the driving and intense “Pale Lights.” A prime example of the collage-like quality of Elvrum’s work, the song cuts from punk aggression to sparse vocals and piano and back again like changing the channels on a radio. There are straight-ahead songs on Ocean Roar; the album track of the same name features Elvrum’s low-key voice intertwining with female harmonies and a chorus of playground children; or “I Walk Home Beholding,” a meditative piece reminiscent of the Twin Peaks theme.

Elsewhere, Elvrum draws inspiration from his surroundings in the Pacific Northwest, translating ocean squalls into guitar noise with “Waves,” or recalling the long, primal relationship humans have had with the ocean on the first of two tracks titled simply “Instrumental.” “I’m deliberately trying to make records about this place,” Elvrum says. 

Mount Eerie plays at 9 pm Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Old Whiteaker Fire House, 1045 W. 1st Ave.; $8.