Following the release of Phil Elverum's perfect, poetic eulogy to his late wife, 2017's A Crow Looked At Me, he embarked on a tour that included not only the first performances of several of those songs but also a second-half preview of what would follow on 2018's masterful, stoic Now Only. These shows were remarkable for many reasons— intimate, fragile, and burned through with both absolute despair and an unusual sense of congregation (many of the shows took place in churches)— Elverum performs with naked honesty songs about the immense nature of loss and the prospect of raising his daughter alone. On (After) we get an unvarnished, untarnished performance from this tour at Holland's Le Guess Who? festival on November 10th, 2017.
Death is real. That is the invocation of Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me and the new (after), a live recording that captures songs from Crow and the subsequent Now Only, the exquisite LPs on which Phil Elverum documented his candid thoughts after the 2016 death of his wife, Geneviève Castrée. A crew member surreptitiously recorded Elverum's set at the 2017 Le Guess Who? festival in the Netherlands, prompting Elverum to consider, in a new way, the mutual contemplation of solitary grief with people outside of the concert hall.
"This is intense," Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum says near the end of the concert captured on (After), and it's an understatement if there ever were one: the only thing scarier -- and more cathartic -- than writing the songs about his late wife, Geneviève Castrée, that made up A Crow Looked at Me and Now Only would be performing them for a live audience. Recorded during Elverum's performance in a 13th century Gothic church as part of the 2017 Le Guess Who? festival, (After) is as powerful as the albums it draws from, and continues the evolution of these songs as layered expressions of grief, realization, and love. The Crow and Now Only material loses none of its immediacy in a live setting, yet the impact is different.
"Death is real/someone's there and then they're not/it's not for singing about/ it's not for making into art." These lines, the first ones you hear in (After), set up its main tension. What happened to Phil Elverum, the death of his young wife by cancer about a year and a half after the birth of their daughter, is not something that fits into conventional song structure. It's too big, too sad, too crushingly real, even for the kind of precisely observed, personally felt poetry that Elverum has always set to music.