Elephant9 – Arrival of the New Elders (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/48 kHz | Time – 43:39 minutes | 486 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Rune Grammofon
After a solid run of five studio albums and 2019´s two double live albums, Psychedelic Backfire I and II, Elephant9 had taken their groovy mix of high energy rock and power jazz as far as they could. In this respect Arrival Of The New Elders comes as a welcome and most timely addition to their recorded output. More varied, mature and reflective, they are as groovy as ever, but more structured and less jam oriented, with the longest tracks clocking in around the seven minute mark.
Having built a solid live reputation even before their brilliant 2008 debut Dodovoodoo, the trio boasts what is probably the strongest rhythm section in Norway, complemented with keyboard magician extraordinaire, the one and only Ståle Storløkken. And boy, does he excel himself on this album, notably with more focus on the Rhodes than before. That said, this is nothing if not another strong group effort from what has been a very tight unit straight from the outset.
Seven brand new compositions from Storløkken and one from Hængsle make way for what we consider to be their finest and most cohesive album to date.
Arrival Of The New Elders was recorded by trusted stalwart Christian Engfelt, with early Dungen producer Mattias Glavå handling the mixing duties
In 2019, Norway’s Elephant9 issued two scorching double-live albums in Psychedelic Backfire I and II. The trio, keyboardist Stale Storløkken, electric bassist and guitarist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen, and drummer Torstein Lofthus — joined by Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske on the second volume — soared through selections from their studio catalog. With the appearance of Arrival of the New Elders, those records become a summation; Elephant9 had taken their exploratory meld of high-energy vanguard jazz-rock as far as they could. Arrival of the New Elders, recorded in an Oslo studio during September 2020, offers a sharp contrast in musical direction. These eight tunes offer a more through-composed but still experimental strategy using less-strident tempos and abrupt dynamic shifts, and more space, texture, and harmony amid group interplay. They are less a jazz-rock jam band than a canny electric jazz trio. Storløkken plays mostly Rhodes piano and Hammond B-3 organ here, but selectively employs synths, Mellotron, and a grand piano. The rhythm section offers nuanced, interrogatory grooves as ballast. The opening title track commences with a kosmische vibe as Storløkken registers ostinato runs on his synth before moving to Rhodes and B-3. He states a subtle, mysterious melody, accented by shimmering snare breaks, a guidepost bassline, and acoustic guitars. Though the bandmembers don’t break a sweat, they probe and uncover at a simmer, moving outward, then circling back during the amorphous chorus before the pianist delivers a gloriously intuitive Rhodes solo. Introduced by the rhythm section, “Rite of Ascension” is more outwardly rockist. Its droning vamp is constantly punctuated by dirty, distorted Rhodes runs, rumbling basslines, and constantly rolling drums as the intensity increases. In places it recalls the garage-prog attack of Soft Machine on Third. While shorter pieces such as “Sojourn” and “Tales of Secrets” offer more laid-back song-like articulations, they remain inquisitive and satisfying in their off-major use of harmony and economy. “Throughout the Worlds” commences with a Rhodes vamp. Amid hushed accompaniment from bass and drums, Storløkken improvises along the harmonic throughline on the Hammond, creating shard-like openings for Eilertsen to exploit before moving afield (and he does) with a spiraling piano solo framed by single-line synth washes. The elusive intro to “Chasing the Hidden” could be mistaken for mid-period Weather Report, until the trio falls off the ledge into noisy, angular, mutant funk. Arriving just before closer “Solar Song,” “Chemical Boogie” is the set’s unruly outlier. It crisscrosses prog rock and early electric jazz by melding the trio’s own wildly idiosyncratic harmonic approach to post-bop, early prog, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, and ’70s cop show soundtracks. It’s a jagged yet compulsively listenable groove jam made truly wonderful by Lofthus’ inventive drumming. Arrival of the New Elders may be an aesthetic aside for Elephant9. Given the wonderfully nebulous alien sounds on offer here, it will hopefully serve as the entryway to an expansive musical approach the trio are only just beginning to articulate. Either way, it’s nothing less than compelling. – Thom Jurek
1. Elephant9 – Arrival of the new elders
2. Elephant9 – Rite of accession
3. Elephant9 – Sojourn
4. Elephant9 – Tales of secrets
5. Elephant9 – Throughout the worlds
6. Elephant9 – Chasing the hidden
7. Elephant9 – Chemical boogie
8. Elephant9 – Solar song