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Elephant9 Walk the Nile Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Some of the most dazzling, dizzying instrumental music you’ll hear this year.

Mike Diver 2010

It may only contain six tracks, but there’s no shortage of imagination on show throughout this second album from Norwegian show-stoppers Elephant9, favourites on the European jazz scene and purveyors of some of the most dazzling, dizzying instrumental music this side of a dance-world sub-genre yet to pass.

That said, this trio – Ståle Storløkken, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen and Torstein Lofthus – might well be key players in whatever form any future dance designs may take, such is their delirious abandonment here, their delivery of propulsive percussion and thick organ guaranteed to set toes tapping. Truly, it’s a set that engages from the off and relents only briefly, during the opening minutes of the title-track, resulting in the sort of sensory onslaught usually reserved for the mightiest of metal acts, or the most affecting of post-rockers. Indeed, there are elements to Elephant9’s sound that echo the slow-shifting soundscapes of the post-rock elite; yet the package here is more vibrant of execution, a consistently high tempo demanding reaction where could-be peer groups would noodle their audience into a catatonic state.

Aviation initially meanders, befuddled by its own design and in search of a groove to lock into. But when it does, with Storløkken’s hefty Hammond applied in broad brush strokes atop Eilertsen’s tremendously twitchy bass, its grip on the listener locks on. And it remains tight ‘til, after eight breathless minutes, the piece collapses, rightfully exhausted, a spectral yawn guided by gently lolloping bass seeing matters out. Hardcore Orientale gets straight in there, stabs of inquisitive percussion seeking out their targets while Storløkken gets funky at his keys; and album closer John Tinnick, the sole composition from Eilertsen (the first five coming from the magical mind of the organist), finds drummer Lofthus excelling with dramatic cymbal splashes and nimble tom work certain to leave any audience amazed.

There’s only one reason to mark Walk the Nile down a touch, and it’s also one of its most appealing traits: the amazing pace maintained by the musicians. Though a delightful pummelling is great when the mood is right, a little more shade to the brilliant light displayed here would not have gone amiss. It sure isn’t a record to slip on when in the depths of the morning after a heavy night before. But this is barely a complaint, a moot point really, and takes nothing of importance away from some remarkable recordings.

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