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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 234 - 09/28/15

Elephant9 with Reine Fiske
Silver Mountain
Rune Grammofon

Elephant9 is the pet of keyboardist Ståle Storløkken (of Supersilent, Motorpsycho, Terje Rypdal's band for a little while and numerous other constellations), drummer Torstein Lofthus (Shining and loads of sessions for more middle of the road Norwegian artists) and bassist Nikolai Eilertsen (BigBang, The National Bank, Møster!). Silver Mountain is their fourth album, the second with Swedish ace guitarist Reine Fiske (Landberk, Paatos, The Amazing, Dungen, Motorpsycho and lots more) on board.

I guess Elephant9 started as a kind of improvised jazz trio but with enough rock elements and energy to give them entry to that camp too. Later labels like jazz-rock, progressive and psychedelic rock old and new have been added. I might supplement with a bit of kosmisches Kraut as well this time, but I guess it's closer to the truth that the group has defined a genre of their own. Anyhow, Silver Mountain is still instrumental mostly improvised music. Sometimes so brutal that the headaches threaten, dominated by impressive energetic drums and bass, glowing Hammond and hard synthesizers. But they also know when to calm down, relax and create beautiful lyrical soundscapes. This can't be all improvisation as far as I can hear; at least they must've made a plan in advance when to calm down or pump up the volume. Mostly they're somewhere in between; seldom really melodic and never pure noise. The albums comes as a double LP or a single CD, 70 minutes with five tracks, two of them around the 10 minutes mark, two around 20 minutes and one in between.

I'm particularly fascinated by the tracks where the calmer parts and Reine's guitar dominate more than usual. The opening track "Occidentali" starts alarmingly melodic and includes a Mellotron for added value with hints towards vintage King Crimson. Both this and "Kungsten" include great fuzzed out Hammond that gives reverberations of vintage Soft Machine. Thumbs up from an oldie like me! But of course it doesn't last for long. There are so many other moods and sounds involved here, both with and without the Hammond organ. For instance, both "Kungsten" and "The Above Ground Sound" include beautiful calm passages with almost classic acoustic guitar to calm things down before this vessel gains speed and it really takes off again. An there is the characteristic drumming deep in the mix that sometimes sounds like a crossing between black metal drums and an Arabic percussion orchestra. "Abhartach" is probably the most energetic track, where the Mellotron pops up again in an eerier context entwined with synthesizer and fuzz-guitar. Here's also the most conventional jazz-rock part of the album until a maelstrom of Mellotron, synth, organ and guitar finishes the whole thing off. "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" only has the title in common with Stevie Wonder's doughnut, as far as I reckon. And thanks for that! Probably the most non-melodic track of the lot.

To me Silver Mountain seems a little bit more melodic compared to previous albums by Elephant9. Maybe due to non-jazzman Reine Fiske being more involved. Still, the band hasn't lost any of its edge. Their most fascinating album to date. One we might delve deeply into for years to come.

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