This version is taken from this video, okay. The real “Ocean Roar” is out there, and it’s wonderful, but in this version, you can hear Phil’s words more clearly, and those words are important, whittled down from pure experience into koanic components of a song. Ocean Roar, the album, is supposed to be about Phil Elverum’s recollections of a (dreamt of?) midnight road trip to the shore that happened twenty years ago. The lyrics are something like this:
One voice heard across the water through ocean roar. Lost in thought. The mind wandering again, drifting west over the hills. Sitting in the car, after the music stopped abrupt. We arrived in the dark, lost and disoriented. As the car cooled down, the sound of waves rose and blanketed. Our minds grew into a vast night. We made beds in the ditch. The loud breath of surf, exhaling and constant. Sleeping on the wet ground. In a dream I swam out past waves roaring and broad deep sky.
What I consistently enjoy about his lyrics is the way that a lot of his phrases, his simple descriptions, open up worlds of associations. There’s repetition: roar and lost, and some close-rhymes between car and dark, loud and ground. There’s something like the qualities of a Hemingway short story about this–only the essential elements have been retained. The lines in the song are there because they are the right lines for this song, for this experience. There’s a pretty incredible lyric from “Through the Trees pt. 2” on Clear Moon where Phil sings, “I meant all my songs/not as a picture of the woods/but just to remind myself/that I briefly live.”
[Ocean Roar comes out Sept. 4th. Listen to the studio version of the title track here]