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Elephant9 - Elephant9 with Reine Fiske: Silver Mountain CD (album) cover

ELEPHANT9 WITH REINE FISKE: SILVER MOUNTAIN

Elephant9

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.86 | 63 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A while back, 'mellotronstorm' facilitated the discovery of a French band, a Magma-offshoot called One Shot which really blew my mind, offering up a technically dazzling form of jazz I like to call 'heavy-jazz' with oodles of profuse and nervous bass guitar, cataclysmic drumming (spirit of Christian Vander), buzzing echelons of nicely distorted e- piano, synthesizers and organ as well as some diagonal guitar rushes that defy gravity. The same reviewer also passed on his admiration for Elephant 9, a skilled Norwegian band that features the near-mythical guitar slinger Reine Fiske of Landberk fame. His style is a spicy mix of U2's the Edge, Robert Fripp and Phil Manzanera, a style best described as impenetrable and enveloping, at times fiery and rasping. Definitely one of prog music's originators of new horizons. The keyboards are manned by Stale Storlokken (Motorpsycho,Terje Rypdal) whose main weapon of predilection is the much distorted Fender Rhodes, an electric piano that is just as mythical in prog as the mighty mellotron or the powerful Rickenbacker, as well as the said beastly mellotron, a slew of Mini-Moogs synths and Hammond organ. Nasty bassist Nicolai Eirletsen (Moster!) fuzzes the box effectively, fostering a deep buzz that permeates the tracks with a forceful shove, a very obligatory rudder for this kind of oppressive music. The drums are frantic, effective and polyrhythmic in the skilled hands of Shining's Torstein Lofthus. The whole is akin to a controlled hurricane of sound, both devastating and magnificently powerful. The antithesis of wimp or fluff.

The condensed obscurity is quite sullen and abrasive on the 14 minute+ opener "Occidentali" with its trilling guitar work that scours the space between sound and fury, raging bass on the rampage, taking no prisoners. The 4 instrumentalists get to show their talents, displaying both energy and subtlety, each carving out their part of the forest with apparent ease. Everything played here just lunges out and grabs the jugular, like a soundtrack for a demented personality, with a hint of perversion, dysfunctional and totally apathetic to any outcome. The mighty mellotron proves why it's the instrument from hell (the first models were impossible to subdue, hissy little machines), as it storms its way through, unremitting.

To have the sheer courage of tackling a cover of the otherwise slightly wimpy Stevie Wonder classic "You Are the Sunshine of my Love" is jaw-dropping especially in view of the fact that this makeover prefers a way darker extremity, barely a hint of the original, creating a deliberately slow burning groove that is more cosmic than ghetto, full of moody brooding sounds including Hammond organ shuffled angst and a relentless binary beat that hammers the drive home. Fiske slowly develops into a sizzle, displaying pitiless axe pyrotechnics that will maintain your mouth agape. Linear and spooky.

The torment level is maintained with the creepy "Abhartach", a more circular and hypnotic mood, laced tight with some divine mellotron strings, as well as loads of distorted effects. The unforgiving electric guitar rasps, shaves, slices and purees like a blender gone berserk, the keyboards flinging gory notes all over the studio floor, a sweat- drenched and dirt-laden display of sombre power jazz-rock, brutally propelled by a rhythm section gone cray-cray. This is oblique, manic, insane and deranged music.

Surrender yet? No? Elefant 9 will slay the disbeliever by shoving not one but 2 colossal and no-holds barred 20 minute+ epics back to back, right down the gullet and the hell with the consequences. If you can't handle it, buzz off now! "Kungsten" wastes little time reigniting the booster rockets, smoke spewing from every note, as if rage was the main fuel propellant. Lofthus' drumming is outright exceptional, both rapid and fierce, presumably infused by the spirit of Keith Moon, as he just bangs like a lunatic. Inexorably, the reptilian bass crawls through the percussive storm, deliberately coiling in hypnotic sequence, relentlessly crushing and suffocating the arrangement into submission, as one asks how long can Lofthus maintain such an aural tornado? The menacing keys and portentous guitar act as a catalyst of pain and despair, threading harshly the confines of endurance. Suddenly, the calm sets in, unexpected and eerie, as spectral rivulets of effervescent notes color the canvas, confusion slowly settling in. This is just a breathing space, for a echoing Canterbury-like fuzz organ shatters the calm one more time, imagine Hatfield and the North or National Health going hot and heavy for a moment. Fiske and Storlokken trade barbed wire licks that shatter the once peaceful disposition thoroughly. Grit, grime and shudder. Okay, that worked, how about another round? Back we go to pastoral sprinklings of acoustic guitar, shafts of suave bass lines and gentle drum rolls. This is quite mesmerizing in its simplicity and patent gorgeousness. What command of both earth and sky! Dizzying contrasts really give this piece a stunning feel. The obligatory ramping up of the speed is required to finish this sucker off and the pedal is slammed way into the metal. Brute.

The last monster is "The Above Ground Sound", a cataclysmic jam that starts out faint and uncluttered, an austere rumble at first with hypnotic notes and a palpable obscurity that slowly evolves into a gargantuan detonation, almost Crimsonian in spirit, as the percussives percolates and the guitar grinds. Insane, unhinged, screwed to the hilt, the lingering emotions are disconcerting to the point of torture. As per norm, a surprise mid-section of acoustic guitar seizes the day and deflects the pain. Fractal shards of sound, another maddening binary tempo and a rustling organ foray add to the pleasure. The insistent keys and rippling guitars recall the finer moments of the Fripp-Summers masterpiece "I Advance Masked" but here muscled along by a steamroller beat. Ebb and flows, peaks and valleys, elation and depression, it's all available within the tight confines of this epic piece. As the arrangement heads for the checkered flag, Reine Fiske's guitar torches the track with incandescent and phosphorescent runs, making one only wonder what would the "Below Ground Sound" come across like? The glorious dual note finale is beastly stuff that would make anyone smile!

Though not for the faint of heart, and thus not really ideal for background music while doing chores, this is the kind of prog you sit down and let it overcome and overwhelm you. And if you get crushed in the process, well maybe you are a musical masochist after all.

4.5 shiny pinnacles

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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