The Microphones releasing photobook version of new album/film
Earlier this year, Phil Elverum revived his moniker The Microphones for the first time in 17 years to release the new album Microphones In 2020, which came with an accompanying film featuring 761 old photos taken by Phil himself. Now he will be releasing all of those photos in a new three-and-a-half pound hardcover photobook called Microphones in 2020 Silent Version. It comes out on Christmas day (pre-order).
My teenage job was working in the darkroom at The Business, a weird little camera/book/record shop in Anacortes. I sat in the dark and listened to my Eric’s Trip and This Mortal Coil tapes and made black and white enlargements of peoples’ torn ancestor portraits, hunched over in the fumes and squinting through a loupe at grains of grey. I took home expired film and weird old cameras and always kept them with me from then on, even now. As life evolved into always traveling, touring, diving into the days, I took hundreds of pictures. Thousands? The 4x6” prints were taped to the bedroom walls, the door, the car, the guitar, everywhere.
As I made songs and albums, these photographs stood in for the unmade movie that I was always soundtracking. Each photo, for me, contained an expanse of music and ideas, mostly unexpressed but always waiting, ripe. In my mind at least, some images are directly married to a specific song or musical moment but most just float as part of the vast wash of atmosphere in which all of these recordings have grown, hundreds of 4x6" windows into a world of multicolored grain, cloud and wave wall, phantoms in twilight, a real world exaggerated through long exposures and low light into a revelation of an unknown one.
In the summer of 2020, I organized 761 of the old photos into a careful sequence synced up with the long new Microphones song and this became the video. A few seconds for each image flopped down, a fragement of the autobiographical lyrics subtitled down below. This flood of images felt too unrelenting so I decided to make a book to allow people to turn the pages at their own pace, and to hear the song silently. It can work in conjunction with the album, a libretto, and it can also work as just a book of images with no story, an abundance of beautiful light, an "art book."
Technical specifics: the camera is a Mercury Univex II half frame 35mm camera, the film is expired 800 speed Kodak, the prints are pre-2004 cheap lab optical light onto paper in chemicals. Around 2004 the global move to digital printing ended this pursuit of distorted walls of fog; the gradients got ugly.
In book form the photos are printed at actual size. The text is unobtrusively small. The dustjacket removes to reveal hidden tiny text specifying additional information about each image (where known). There’s a golden ribbon to mark your place. The heavy hardcover binding is wrapped in black cloth and stamped with gold foil on the cover and spine. This book is a substantial brick.
It’s a culmination of a lifetime still underway. I’m still taking pictures in the weird low light with the same obsolete camera, finding ways. The pursuit continues, the path through distortion and grain twists forward.