Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Elephant9 - Greatest Show on Earth (Rune Grammofon, 2018)

The Norwegian collective Elephant9 consists of Stale Storløkken on organ and keyboards, Nikolai Hængsle on electric bass and Torstein Lofthus on drums and percussion. They are a very exciting improvising instrumental unit that draws from jazz fusion and progressive rock to create a create a fresh and modern amalgam. The album begins with "Actionpack1" which has fast, pounding drums, grinding bass and organ swirls, creating a powerful striving force, as synths frame the slashing drums and bubbling bass, growing even faster and more exciting, with layers of keyboards developing within the framework of the music. They shift gears to a more cinematic organ sound with runaway drumming and bass that holds the groove together, the trio keeps the pace moving briskly and it never gets bogged down, changing the manner of their improvisation constantly by altering volume, tempo and focus, developing a crescendo and breaking it off cold, then add a heavy, almost oppressive tag ending. "Farmer's Secret" is alive with bulbous bass and bright organ chords and bursts of percussion, with beats of space added in for tension, the music develops colorfully and brashly creating a fun and enticing atmosphere. Extra keyboards are added to fill out the atmosphere and push it further into fusion territory, with strata of organ and synth meeting bass and percussion and creating a dense and fervent performance. "Dancing With Mr. E" has a lurching heavy groove that sounds cool and bluesy, yet retro psychedelic simultaneously with crisp drumming and bass playing and punchy organ. They deviate toward a more modern sound, using smears of pastel tones that are juxtaposed against horror movie organ chords as the group dives into a complex uptempo improvisation. Fast drumming builds to a very impressive solo statement before slamming against a massive tsunami of keyboards swelling up and eventually overwhelming all it sees. The final track on the album is called "Freaks," and it develops a choppy, carnival like atmosphere that gets progressively darker, with huge organ chords and rumbling drums and bass leading into long tones from the keyboards and tight rhythm play keeping things moving along with multiple keyboard shadings adding to the funhouse effect as music seems to reflect from multiple mirrors in different directions. They return to a more traditional organ grinder setup although at top volume and speed, creating a thrilling performance, that belies the three piece instrumentation. Greatest Show On Earth - amazon.com

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