Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Elephant9 - Psychedelic Backfire I (Rune Grammofon, 2019)

The first of two live albums from the band Elephant9, consisting of keyboard player Ståle Storløkken, bassist Nikolai Hængsle and drummer Torstein Lofthus and guest guitarist Reine Fiske, with the music being recorded during a four day residency at the Kampen Bistro in Oslo. This is an excellent melding of open minded jazz and groove based psychedelic rock. Their use of loud drones and storming keyboards and rhythm work well, beginning with "I Cover the Mountain Top" featuring graceful keyboard and bass and subtle percussion, finally breaking out in a shocking manner driving the volume into the red and adding the guitar scouring across heavy drumbeats. The dynamism works in their favor, moving from moody and cinematic to overt rock quickly, and their psychedelia is not the incense and peppermints hippie variety, but a post-modern smearing of sound and technique to alter perception in a wholly different way, blasting the version of the Tony Williams Lifetime with Jack Bruce fifty years into the dystopian present. Heavy, slamming chords introduce "Farmer's Secret" using some dirty and raw organ playing and funky bass and drums to excellent effect, grinding out a deep and gnarly Root Down era Jimmy Smith groove. "Habanera Rocket" keeps a subtle ground level beginning, throbbing and bubbling along, flowing and pulsating as the music gradually gains volume and tempo in a trance inducing manner. The music becomes harsher and heavier of beat, flirting with progressive rock, but never giving into cliche. Laying massive keyboard chords and showboating runs, they have turned the formerly introspective piece completely on its head, to joyous crowd approval. Adding some cool echo effects to a guitar and keyboard feature keeps this eighteen minute monster from bogging down, driven with consistently excellent drumming to a mighty conclusion. This leads directly into "Skink/Fugl Fonix," played fast and loud, very powerful and brawny, with no nonsense muscular drumming and swirling keyboards and throbbing bass. The music played at this speed is quite thrilling, and even more impressive is that they are able to develop varying textures and hues from within the maelstrom, adding touches of exotica and calliope sounds for variety. "Actionpak1" hits hard with massive industrial bass and drums pulverizing moving into buzzing electronics and crisp beats at a very high speed, swooping and diving with cells of harshly driven keyboard playing against a relentless drumbeat. Closing with "Dodovoodo" the band unites to create a free and frenetic soundstage, with motoring bass and drums laying down a thick carpet for the keyboards and choppy guitar to explore at will. Long droning tones build atop one another shimmering over the percolating percussion, with shards of guitar accenting the sound. Psychedelic Backfire I - amazon.com

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