I’m learning to never underestimate Elder. In my review of their last studio album, the masterful Reflections Of A Floating World, I spent a fair amount of time detailing how quickly and impressively their music has developed over the past decade. Yet despite this knowledge, I still found myself properly flabbergasted upon hearing The Gold & Silver Sessions.
Generally, Elder’s music is meticulously arranged and intricately layered, each piece a long-form labyrinth of carefully constructed interlocking segments. Whereas on The Gold & Silver Sessions we’re presented with a couple of extended instrumental pieces primarily improvised in the studio, based on simple pedal-point motifs. In lesser hands, extended improvisations can become interminable bores (and there are myriad examples of this throughout rock history), but with the right calibre of players, they can become spontaneous compositions just as impactful as their composed brethren.
Elder not only have the musical chops to pull this off but, more importantly, they have the requisite chemistry. The core line-up of Nick DiSalvo (guitar, keyboards), Jack Donovan (bass) and Matt Couto (drums) have been playing together since 2006 when they were all still teenagers. Recent addition Mike Risberg (guitar, keyboards) joined in 2017 and has meshed beautifully with group over two years of constant touring. The songs contained herein were recorded during their European tour in 2018.
The beautifully relaxed, hypnotic groove of Illusory Motion is instantly inviting, enveloping the listener in a wash of clean, ringing, melodic guitar parts, synth and electric piano. Nick and Mike temper the usual Elder guitar roar here, going for a crystalline sound that allows the melodic qualities free rein. Their interplay is perfectly in sync, they let the piece develop methodically, carefully applying new layers, allowing it to keep its hypnotic base while never becoming stagnant. There are some truly beautiful moments; especially the fusion-inspired bridge that enters around the 3-minute mark (pay special note to Jack’s fine melodic bass underpinning in this segment). The pace and intensity picks up in the final third, the guitar and bass sounds get a little dirtier, Matt’s drumming fierier, yet the overall vibe remains intact.
The song Im Morgengauen is a feature for Nick DiSalvo who wrote, arranged and played all the instruments. It’s a lovely mixture of fusion and progressive rock elements and functions as the perfect segue between the longer improvised tracks.
Weißensee is a blissful excursion into Kosmiche Musik and takes up the entirety of side two. It’s essentially divided into three segments; a bright, bouncing introductory section, a more forceful, groove-based middle and a heavier outro section. This is the track that really captures the magic Elder can create in a live environment. It’s an engrossing 18-minutes, dominated by the endlessly inventive interplay between the guitarists.
In the grand scheme of things, it will be interesting to see how Elder incorporates elements of this EP into the next studio chapter. While I don’t believe The Gold & Silver Sessions is indicative of the musical approach they’ll likely take on their next album, I am firmly convinced the strength they demonstrate on this experimental side-trip bodes well for the future. We shall soon see; they enter the studio in September to record album #5.
01. Illusory Motion (9:53)
02. Im Morgengrauen (5:24)
03. Weißensee (18:33)
Total Time – 33:50
Nick DiSalvo – Guitar, Keyboards, all instruments on Im Morgengrauen
Mike Risberg – Guitar, Keyboards
Jack Donovan – Bass
Matt Couto – Drums
Record Label: Blues Funeral Recordings
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 12th July 2019