Audio Review: Microphones – Early Tapes 1996-1998

Posted January 2, 2017 in Music Reviews

Café 1920 opening


Early Tapes 1996-1998

[PW Elverum and Sun]


Few bands’ back catalogues and off-cuts have been subject to the same degree of reflection and scrutiny as Phil Elverum’s Microphones. So towering and singular is the achievement of his acclaimed 2001 release The Glow, Pt.2 that there has long been a desire to uncover insights into how such a wonderfully strange artefact came into being. Through the release of numerous reissues, bolstered with alternate takes and demos, you would be reasonable to assume there was little left in the vault yet here we are with another compendium of sketches, this time covering a timeframe that predates any existing Microphones release from 1996 to 1998.


Like with so many compilations of this ilk, the rough and ready morsels on display here would most certainly be hard sell for those not already convinced of their importance within a larger narrative. The fact that these recordings were never intended for broad consumption is readily apparent in their unfinished nature but, as an exercise in Elverum showing his workings, they are undoubtedly of interest to those already immersed in his peculiar and dense oeuvre. Early Tapes succeeds in highlighting what were surely eureka moments in the inception of the two musical modes that Elverum’s finest moments simultaneously inhabit. Tracks like (Bass) or the similarly utilitarian titled Drum Tape Loop with Bass show the beginning days of his fascination with raw, overdriven noise, while Compressor is a tender, brittle ditty in the mould of The Glow’s Headless Horseman. There’s plenty to dig into here for those of us who have long cooed over Elverum’s nous for production and skewed take on the singer-songwriter model. – Danny Wilson


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