Published on 27th May 2020
Shaman Elephant – Wide Awake But Still Asleep
Shaman Elephant return with their second album, four years after their highly acclaimed debut, Crystals, an album that I had the pleasure of reviewing for TPA. At the time I remarked that I looked forward to what they would do next, and I have not been disappointed as it appears that the band have used the time to develop their craft. There is a sharpness and dedicated focus here as they develop the ideas from the first album and run with them.
The album was recorded at Solslottet Studio with production by Iver Sandøy (who has worked with Enslaved, Krakow and Seven Impale) and continues to provide an exciting blend of Sixties/Seventies rock with psychedelia and prog overtones, all with a modern feel. The album features seven tracks, ranging from just under four minutes to the longest at eleven and a half, with a satisfying total time of forty minutes. The core of the band continues to be the driving rhythm section of Jard Hole and Ole-Andreas Sæbø Jensen, leaving room for Eirik Sejersted Vognstølen’s guitar and Jonas Særsten’s keyboards to explore and develop their musical directions.
Things get off to a great start with the title track Wide Awake But Still Asleep, slowly building before settling into a hooksome groove that continually builds and evolves to about half way through. When you think the song is about to explode and almost fall apart, it shifts back and the vocals appear, taking the song forward to its conclusion. Second up, H.M.S: Death, Rattle and Roll comes straight out of the blocks and grabs you by the throat, initially with a seventies Deep Purple vibe before settling into the Shaman Elephant sound. There is a slightly more gentle mid-section before the song goes off in a psychedelic rock aural fest, another demonstration of their focus and drive. Steely Dan is a bright and cheerful track with lyrical nods to the great Steely Dan, referencing The Royal Scam and Your Gold Teeth among others in this thoroughly enjoyable song.
They change things around a bit on Ease of Mind, providing a more gentle approach in this lovely song with hidden depths, beautifully constructed and holding the attention throughout. This is followed by Magnets, sharp paced and driven along by the tight rhythm section, supported by keyboards and again giving room for some great guitar. This brings us to the longest track on the album, Traveller, which is an excellent example of song pacing. The start is reminiscent of fellow Norwegians Motorpsycho, but they quickly establish their own identity, at the midway point a change in pace gives way to a guitar and keyboards interlude which gradually starts to build back up, the rhythm section slowly joining in to propel the song forward again. The interlocking instruments make for an exciting and enjoyable listen, revealing the band’s skill, which I believe is also reflected in the live setting. They wrap up the album with a slow burner, Strange Illusions. Here the guitar has a gritty feel at the start before becoming crisp and clear as the song develops, bringing the album to a most satisfying conclusion.
This release has shown the continuing development of this band, they have created an enjoyable and interesting album which leaves you with a real feel good factor and wanting to hit replay, repeated plays reveal the hidden depths within. Sharp grooves with moments of beauty provide a mature album for their second release, music of this calibre is what we need right now in these uncertain times and I for one am glad to get to hear it. Please give it a listen, I am sure you will not be disappointed.
01. Wide Awake but Still Asleep (8:05)
02. H.M.S: Death, Rattle and Roll (4:11)
03. Steely Dan (3:56)
04. Ease of Mind (3:24)
05. Magnets (3:56)
06. Traveller (11:28)
07. Strange Illusions (5:15)
Total Time – 40:18
Eirik Sejersted Vognstølen – Vocal, Guitar
Jard Hole – Drums
Ole-Andreas Sæbø Jensen – Bass
Jonas Særsten – Keyboards
Record Label: Karisma Records
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 29th May 2020