Norwegian jazz-rock fusion behemoth Elephant9’s previous release was the twin-headed live monster Psychedelic Backfire I & II back in 2019, two righteous slabs of visceral creative crackle that left scorch marks on your carpet. The passing of the Plague Year saw the power trio holed up in Oslo’s Studio Paradiso during September last year, laying down the tracks for what would become the band’s most reflective collection of music to date.
Led by the ubiquitous keyboard maestro Ståle Storløkken, a name that should need no introduction, Elephant9 have to date issued five studio albums prior to the 2019 double live set, and each record has served to forge their unique path through the tall pine trees of Scandinavia’s burgeoning music scene. Arrival of the New Elders burns with a soul and groove that is to the fore on this, their most considered affair with Euterpe. Opening with the title track, we are straight into a cosmic jazz groove I could well imagine Shabaka Hutchings blowing on top of. Rite of Accession gets right into the mainline, and Sojourn is just that, and indicative of the unlikely and atypical introspection in these grooves, especially coming after the 100mph rollercoaster of Psychedelic Backfire.
The laid back Tales of Secrets that follows continues the easy going vibe, the band locking into a subtle electric piano shuffle from Ståle. Joining him is bassist and guitarist Nikolai Hængsle, and drummer Torstein Lofthus, both names that anyone familiar with the Norwegian jazz and rock scenes will be familiar with. All three make for a unit that are comfortable in each other’s highly talented presence, egos are subsumed to the whole.
There are eight tracks on the record, seven from Storløkken, with Rite of Accession being penned by bassist Hængsle, a man who knows his way around a tune, as any of you familiar with his superb wonky pop band Needlepoint will be aware, but this is an entirely different kettle of herrings, oh yes! In fact, Rite of Accession is the most forceful tune here, and the one that links most strongly to the more energetic canon of yore. While Ståle favours the Rhodes for a lot of the album, here, it’s the organ and synths that get an outing, adding to the grandiosity of the track.
The deeper into this album you venture, the more trippy it gets, but in a lovely and woozily understated fashion. Chasing the Hidden is a perfect example, a tune that is indistinct around the edges, as it looks through a glass darkly – this, and the chase-scene Chemical Boogie that follows come from the soundtrack of a ’60s dayglo arthouse movie yet to be made. Mine’s one of those bright blue ones, please…
Solar Song comes down wonderfully, a blissful end to a surprising but delightful departure for Elephant9, yet another band on my “must see” list, a metaphorical roll call lengthening daily it seems, partly due to Plague Year, but even more worryingly due to bureaucratic and economic nightmares imposed by Brexshit isolationism. At least we have the recorded works to console us, and Arrival of the New Elders looks like being another keeper for the 2021 end of year lists.
01. Arrival of the New Elders (6:50)
02. Rite of Accession (7:13)
03. Sojourn (3:18)
04. Tales of Secrets (3:53)
05. Throughout the Worlds (6:14)
06. Chasing the Hidden (5:23)
07. Chemical Boogie (5:13)
08. Solar Songs (5:39)
Total Time – 43:43
Ståle Storløkken – Rhodes Piano, Hammond Organ, Grand Piano, Eminent 310, Mellotron, Continuum
Nikolai Hængsle – Electric Bass, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Torstein Lofthus – Drums, Percussion
Record Label: Rune Grammofon
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 12th February 2021