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Elephant9 - Walk The Nile CD (album) cover

WALK THE NILE

Elephant9

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.75 | 60 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This congregation of keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen and drummer Torstein Lofthus is really something: individually coming from musical sources as diverse as free-jazz, metal-oriented RIO and indie pop-rock, collectively they created this magnificent jazz-prog monster that the world knows as Elephant9. Their 2010 album "Walk The Nile" is a firm candidate for membership in any objective Top 5 list of the year's progressive releases. Even though the title is a pun intended for the adage "walk the line", you could actually use the title as a symbol of what the album is essentially about: each track is based on a basic motif (the determined road they walk) that becomes fluidly expanded and/or distorted along the way (as if flowing through a river, the Nile perhaps). Unlike other prog albums that are tremendously focused on compositional schemes, Elephant9 states an abundantly clear ideology of letting the sound flow, grow and evolve in solid jams in order to establish suggestive moods: of course, as this is a power-trio, the moods usually tend to be explicitly powerful. Niacin is one of the most evident references for the band's writing and performing influences, but you can also spot traces from the 70s jazz-fusion tradition (pre-Pastorius Weather Report, mainly), as well as a generous dose of psychedelic ornaments and space-rock atmospheres sticking in for occasional good effect. The opening piece 'Fugl Fønix' installs an agile musical development over a vibrant 6/8 tempo: the trio displays its dynamic energy in full swing, but it is particularly drummer Lofthus who steals an important part of the limelight in the mix. 'Aviation' starts on a different note, introverted and mysterious, almost cosmic, based on minimal organ layers. The bass delivers hints of its forthcoming main line while the drums go rolling in as if building an air of expectation. It won't take long before the trio erupts into yet another demonstration of intense jazz-rock jamming. Once again, Lofthus' drum kit is very prominent in the mix, but it is in the deliveries emerging from Storløkken's keyboards where the track's neuralgic center lies. Track 3 is the eponymous one ? a 10 minute musical surprise whose sonic framework brings an expansion of languid spacey atmospheres. How can I even begin to describe this track's main features? Well, let me try this: a translation of moods from "Phaedra"-era TD and classic Cluster into the experimental drive of early Weather Report with added post-rock seasonings. I don't know if this description has any success at making at least a little sense, but that's the best I can do by now. Anyway, 'Walk The Nile' is a highlight of this album, I am quite certain about it. Next is 'Hardcore Orientale', which brings back the warmth and openly extroverted flair that had made the best of the first 2 pieces: this warmth is conquered after a crescendo that begins in an initial solemn place. 'Habanera Rocket' lasts almost ¼ hour, a long instrumental journey that starts hypnotic and ethereally groovy, not unlike the softer side of Agitation Free or Exmagma: the Eilertsen-Lofthus duo works like an impeccable machine whose monotonous loop efficiently helps to create a controlled atmosphere all the way toward the definitive exquisite groove (the second motif), which is when the keyboards draw grayish sonic figures all over the place. The aforesaid rhythmic scheme could not be surpassed by any synthesized program, no way! Shortly before the 10 minute mark, things grow into fusion territory with extra spacey colors (third motif): later on, a brief deconstructive section intrudes and reveals how well these three guys are capable of interacting in a free-jazz environment. The coda appears in the shape of a reprise of the second motif with enhanced psyched-out moods. The albums end with the 'John Tinnick', a groovy motif displayed on a frantic, architectonic rhythmic pace: an intense Hammond orgy until the end. Elephant9 bears one of the most abrasive sounds in the current progressive area: this sophomore album is undisputed proof of that, and so it is recommended as a very excellent item in any good prog collection.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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