Elephant9 & Reine Fiske - Silver Mountain [Runegrammofon - 2015]
Elephant9 is a Norweigen instrumental progressive rock band formed in 2006, who have 5 albums as of now, their newest a collaboration with fellow Norwegian Reine Friske titled "Silver Mountain". "Silver Mountain" is a massive and ambitious project containing both sections of dense complexity and tranced out improvisation.
In most respects, this album sounds transported from the 70's, with traditional instrumentation (including rock organ and mellotron), fuzzy tube distortion and a generally analog texture. The style they are playing is a marriage between many of my favorite styles played at the time, combining the adventurous spirit and extended, ever changing narratives of space rock with the control and precision of prog.
The band will spend many minutes riffing out, the bassist riding a single pitch while the band explores an ever-expanding space. They choose perfectly the emotive, colorful licks to surround the repetitive pulse. They bring a fiery, engaged energy to their playing, surging into thunderous power and pushing their instruments to the strained edges of their timbres. The squeal of the distorted organ is particularly pleasing. This works perfectly to dispel the pretention and stuffiness typical of prog, the note-heavy sections attaining a great deal more meaning than they would've had without such contrast.
When they do happen, the more blatantly progressive, through-composed sections recall King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" or ELP in their chromatic dissonance, and unison guitar/organ riffing. Angular scalar figures are presented as biting conclusions to long space outs.
A vivid psychedelic creativity permeates the whole album, particularly evident in such moments as the oddly dissonant ostinato that opens final track "The Above Ground Sound", a unique tension held for nearly 7 minutes with a strange magick air, a gypsy-like atmosphere. The overall sensation is that of exploration and movement. Closing my eyes, I feel I am moving across deserts and forested vistas. The emotion they summon is nostalgic, tapping into the primal and timeless. It is a very soulful recording. The lush, climactic section of the 4th piece "Kungsten" is tear inducing.
The 80 minute running time is initially a bit overwhelming, though all of the music is certainly worthy. There are 5 lengthy tracks, with the last 2 being 20 minutes each, an LP size on their own. It took me a long time to begin noticing individual pieces and moments, as each track smoothly flows into the next.
If you're a huge fan of krautrock, and especially its intersection with progressive rock, this album is a no brainer. Honestly, its quality and energy exceeds most of my favorite vintage albums. A trip to take many times; it is so brimming with ideas that I doubt I could ever tire of it.Josh Landry