Elephant Tree - S/T

Elephant Tree - S/T

Elephant Tree are back with a sophomore album, and it is easy to see why the band chose to make this self titled.  Their first record Theia showed a lot of promise, but this second record delivers on a whole new level.  The combination of heaviness and soaring harmonized vocals creates something otherworldly, like the jellyfish creature on the album cover, it  evokes a sense of floating through dark abyssal plains, drawn towards a beacon of light, which is revealed to be something alien, composed of strange textures that float above deep turbulent undercurrents. This, you find yourself affirming, is heavy...

The opening track “Spore” is a short shot of aural lubrication, an oscillating drone that builds and cracks into it’s parent “Wither”, where the fun really begins.  A stately, loping riff, well mannered, and plays nice with the vocal harmonies - there is something in the flavor that reminds me a little of Alice In Chains.  But that is only the start, as the lyrics tell us, you have to follow the road to the end, and indeed, colors and light will start to bend as things get heavier.  We get a change in pace in the middle section a martial tattoo that signals the instrumental.  Not the bluesy rehashed solo you might expect, but a rinsing wash of sound.  The Tree appreciates the use of texture over melody.  

The intro to “Dawn” is a little bluesier, and there is more passion in the vocals, although there is also a distance.  A feedback drenched solo entwines with a seesaw riff, while the rhythm section keeps up a sucking, swirling vortex.  It resolves into “Circles”, an acoustic number, all spacey psychedelia wedded with pastoral nostalgic lyrics.  Ocean and space merge together, both of them reduced to a floating sensation.

“Aphotic Blues” introduces some real grit to the proceedings, bringing in the stony doom.  The riff shifts under you, slowing and slurring as your eyes get heavier as consciousness slips away and you are left with a drone of pure fuzz.  DIrty fuzz blisters and crackles - your brain is spitting out static.  Then a switch flips and you are in overdrive, heavy stomping hulk rage driving you to burn out.  “Echoes” swaggers in, with a relaxed good time feel.  The vocals here are laid back and confident on the verses, a loose but tight delivery that your average doom growler couldn’t get away with.  Electronic burbles drive the drifting instrumental section, before returning to power riffing, and into a solo that scrapes up out of the gravel depths of the abyssal plain to soar.

“Fracture” features robotic altered vocals, and a dead or alive riff. Once again there is always a sense of detachment. Once the vocal fade out though, the weight of crushing doom is immediate. “Surma” starts slowly, but builds into an extended solo, perhaps one of the more traditional on the album, that fades into a stately piano coda.  It’s small touches like this, the different textures and moods, that elevate the album above the run of the mill.

The production helps too.  This album sounds great and the mix really opens up when listened to loudly. Part of my delight in this album is the surprise - it came out of nowhere to be an instant album of the year contender.  Anyone hoping to take it out of the top spot will have their work cut out for them.  Here’s hoping the boys from London can make a stateside visit on the back of this - it has to be a monster live.

Elephant Tree:

  • Peter Holland
  • Sam Hart
  • Jack Townley
  • RIley Macintyre

Label: Magnetic Eye

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