While never known for being “conventional,” per se, the newest effort from the prolific, preternatural pen of Phil Elverum under his Mount Eerie moniker is purely bizarre.

Pre-Human Ideas is less a new record than it is a metaphysical reinterpretation of his last two records, Ocean Roar and Clear Moon. It is composed of songs from both releases that have been heavily re-worked with cold, synthetic MIDI instrumentation and harshly monotonous, auto-tuned vocals – in some cases with entirely different lyrics. Apparently intended as instructional pieces to teach the songs to his numerous touring bands, Pre-Human Ideas is soul-baring in a way, skinning the tracks down to a base and ugly skeletal form. It’s like a horrifyingly gaunt paint-by-numbers.

Sticking out like sore thumbs are the opening and closing organ drone tracks, bookending the bizarre, digital slander of the rest of the album. Previously buried deep within songs, the organ instrumentals are uncovered and dusted off, pushed to the forefront in all of their rich, analog glory as an insane contrast to the bizarre and twisted overload of mundanity.

Where his last two efforts were intangible, beautifully linked silken threads of space and time – removed from humanity and steeped in the haunting, raw unpredictability of nature – Pre-Human ideas is, ironically, quintessentially human. Frail, synthetic and constantly trying to correct itself, this is a stoic glance into the depravity and hollowness of the human condition.

By Nick Laugher

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