Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Elephant9 with Reine Fiske—Atlantis (Rune Grammofon)

Trying to slot this fantastic album into a genre is difficult. Is it progressive rock with jazz structures? Or simply hard-rocking jazz? Why bother trying? Basically, this band rips. Elephant9 keep it loose and improvisational, for the most part. Riffs give way to jamming; riffs come back again, sometimes. The major tracks on this album all clock in around 10 minutes each. They really hurl themselves into their work. The album sounds urgent—it only took them three days to record, so obviously they weren't messing around. The rhythm section rumbles like a herd of 9 angry elephants charging at you. The bass guitar has an attack and tone that will stomp your puny frame into dust. It’s like Jack Bruce and Lemmy are tag-teaming the thing. The keyboards consist of burning Hammonds and raging Rhodes pumped through some huge speaker cabs. This is one heavy outfit. The opening to “Psychedelic Backfire” is pure doom metal malevolence. Atlantis features the Norwegian trio with guest Reine Fiske (Landberk, Dungen, The Amazing) on guitar on many of the tracks. Fiske integrates well with the rest of the band. He especially finds a kindred spirit in keyboardist Ståle Storløkken as they engage in some overdriven tradeoffs. The constant push-pull of the band’s approach doesn’t leave any room for virtuoso showcases. Everybody gets their licks in while managing not to get bulldozed out of the way. This sound may have crystallized in the late 60s, early 70s with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Tony Williams Lifetime, even The Band of Gypsys—check out the funky riff on “Freedom’s Children” that sets up Fiske’s initial solo flights—but it’s proven to be a timeless approach. Everybody likes hearing crack musicians playing off each other at top speed, right?

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