Geneviève Castrée died in July. She made deeply searching music as Ô Paon and Woelv, and illustrated comic books with the same emotional intensity. She was also the wife of Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum and the mother of their child. A Crow Looked At Me, written and recorded last fall, is an album-length response to Elverum's past year, and today brings its first song, "Real Death."
Since July, I've kept coming back to a longer essay I've been writing about Castrée, Elverum and death, and now there's a blunt piece to add — one I thought would come and wasn't sure how to handle. I'm still writing that essay, but for now, here's a note from Phil Elverum himself about A Crow Looked At Me:
Why share this much? Why open up like this? Why tell you, stranger, about these personal moments, the devastation and the hanging love? Our little family bubble was so sacred for so long. We carefully held it behind a curtain of privacy when we'd go out and do our art and music selves, too special to share, especially in our hyper-shared imbalanced times. Then we had a baby and this barrier felt even more important. (I still don't want to tell you our daughter's name.) In May 2015, they told us Geneviève had a surprise bad cancer, advanced pancreatic, and the ground opened up. "What matters now?" we thought. Then on July 9, 2016, she died at home and I belonged to nobody anymore. My internal moments felt like public property. The idea that I could have a self or personal preferences or songs eroded down into an absurd old idea left over from a more self-indulgent time before I was a hospital-driver, a caregiver, a child-raiser, a griever. I am open now, and these songs poured out quickly in the fall, watching the days grey over and watching the neighbors across the alley tear down and rebuild their house. I make these songs and put them out into the world just to multiply my voice saying that I love her. I want it known.
DEATH IS REAL could be the name of this album. These cold mechanics of sickness and loss are real and inescapable, and can bring an alienating, detached sharpness. But it is not the thing I want to remember. A crow did look at me. There is an echo of Geneviève that still rings, a reminder of the love and infinity beneath all of this obliteration. That's why.
A Crow Looked At Me comes out March 24 on P.W. Elverum & Sun.