ELEPHANT9 WITH REINE FISKE-SILVER MOUNTAIN.

ELEPHANT9 WITH REINE FISKE-SILVER MOUNTAIN.

For their fourth album, Silver Mountain, Elephant9 have once again joined forces with Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske. This tantalising pan-Scandinavian collaboration has resulted in a genre-melting album of rock ’n’ jazz, prog rock and psychedelia, Silver Mountain. It will be released on Rune Grammofon on 16th October 2015, and is being hailed as the finest album of Elephant9’s four album career. Their career began in Oslo, Norway, in 2006.

That’s when keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, drummer Torstein Lofthus and bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen decided to embark upon a new project. This new project they called Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus. The three musicians were experienced, talented and known for producing ambitious, innovative music. That had been the case throughout their careers, when they’ve been involved in a variety of projects. 

The elder statesman of the trio was keyboardist Ståle Storløkken. He was thirty-seven in 2006, and previously, had been a member of Audun Kleive Generator X, Veslefrekk, Pocket Corner, Humcrush, Pocket Corner and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Each of these groups had released at least one album. So had the each of the other groups Ståle Storløkken was involved with. This included Bol, Cucumber and Supersilent. It seemed Ståle Storløkken had an insatiable thirst for music. That was also the case with drummer Torstein Lofthus.

Just like Ståle Storløkken, drummer Torstein Lofthus was a veteran of several bands. He was twenty-nine in 2006, and  had previously been a member of Damp and Shining. Both bands had released two albums. So, Torstein Lofthus was an experienced musician. He was no stranger to the recording studio or touring circuit. Neither was the third member of the new group, bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen.

At twenty-eight,  Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen was the youngest member of the new band. However, he wasn’t lacking in experience. Already, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen was a member of Big Bang and The National Bank. Both bands had enjoyed a degree of success, and were seen as rising stars of the Norwegian music scene. However, like many Norwegian musicians,  Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen was happy to be part of several bands.

That was the case with Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus. They had spent much of their careers working on different projects and collaborating with a variety of musicians. Some of these projects enjoyed a degree of longevity, others were short-lived. When Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus began working together they had no idea that nine years later, they would still be together. Albeit with a new name.

For much of the first year, the nascent band spent time honing their sound. When they played live, Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus’ sound was variously described as jazz fusion or progressive, neo-psychedelic, jazz-fusion. Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus’ music was already proving popular. However, after a year together, the band decided to change their name, and Elephant9 were born in 2007. 

Just a year after the birth of Elephant9, the band were readying themselves to release their debut album Dodovoodoo. It was due for release on Rune Grammofon later in 2008. Critics were impressed by Elephant9’s debut album, heaping praise on Dodovoodoo. With this praise ringing in their ears, the three members of Elephant9 must have known that they were on the verge of something exciting.

And so that proved to be. Two years after the release of  Dodovoodoo, Elephant9 returned in 2010 with their sophomore album Walk The Nile. This time around, it wasn’t just jazz critics that were won over by Walk The Nile. Instead, both jazz and rock critics championed the album. When it was released on Rune Grammofon, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Record buyers were also won over by Walk The Nile. So were one of Norway’s leading bands.

After the release of Walk The Nile, Motorpsycho asked Elephant9 to open for then in Norway and in London. This meant that Elephant9’s music was being heard by a wider audience. For a group being hailed one of the rising stars of the vibrant and thriving Norwegian music scene, 2010 was suddenly getting even better. Soon, things would get even better for Elephant9. 

Later in 2010, the shortlist for Spellemannprisen Awards were announced. Elephant9 found their name on the shortlist for a Spellemannprisen in the jazz category. The Spellemannprisen Awards were the most prestigious in Norwegian music. Even being nominated was an achievement in itself. However, Elephant9 went one better, and won a Spellemannprisen Award. 2010 had been the most successful year of Elephant9’s four year career. However, they weren’t going to rest on their laurels.

In 2011, Elephant9 released their first live album, Live At The BBC. It was recorded in London, and released by Rune Grammofon. Live at the BBC was a tantalising taste of Elephant9 live. Seamlessly, the three master musicians switch between genres on a quartet of tracks from their first two albums. From I Cover The Mountain Top, through Dodovoodoo, Aviation and the twelve minute album closer Habanera Rocket, Elephant9 are at their very best. This whetted record buyer’s appetite for Elephant9’s third album.

For their third studio album Atlantis, Elephant9 decided to collaborate with legendary Swedish prog rock guitarist Reine Fiske. Reine made his name with Dungen, and then joined Reform. However, when he first collaborated with Elephant9, Reine was a member of Sylvester Schlegel’s band The Guild. With Reine onboard, Elephant9 began work on their third album Atlantis. Once the album was completed, it was scheduled for release later in 2012. 

Prior to the release of Atlantis on Rune Grammofon, the critics had their say. Just like their first two albums, critical acclaim accompanied the release of Atlantis. Some critics saw Reine Fiske as Elephant9’s missing link. Adding a guitarist to the lineup completed their sound. Now it was a case of onwards and upwards for Elephant9.

That proved to be the case. After the release of Atlantis, Elephant9 took to the stage at some of Norway’s biggest festivals. There’s none bigger that the prestigious Kongsberg Jazzfestival. Appearances at Union Scene, and Victoria and Najonal Jazzscene rounded off 2012 for Elephant9.

After the critically acclaim and commercial success of Atlantis, critics and record buyers awaited the release of Elephant9’s fourth album. However, it’s been a long wait. Nearly three years have passed between the release of Atlantis and Silver Mountain. Partly, this is because of the three members of Elephant9’s other commitments. It was a case of fitting the recording of Elephant9’s fourth album into Ståle Storløkken, Torstein Lofthus and Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen schedules. 

Recording of what became Silver Mountain began at the Kungsten Studio. The group came prepared. They had penned four tracks and chosen a cover version. Ståle Storløkken had penned Occidentali and Abhartach. Kungsten and The Above Ground Soundwere penned by the three members of Elephant9. The other track was a cover of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. These five tracks were recorded by the three multitalented members of Elephant9 and Reine Fiske during October 2014.

When recording began, keyboardist Ståle Storløkken was soon showing his versatility. He switched between Fender Rhodes, Hammond Organ, upright piano, mellotron and synths. Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen played electric bass, acoustic guitar and percussion. Drummer Torstein Lofthus also added percussion. So did Reine Fiske. Mainly, he played electric and acoustic guitar. Once recording was complete, Elephant9 got back to playing live.

By then, Elephant9 were now able to pack huge venues. It was a far cry from the days when they played at Rockefeller’s in Olslo, which only held 1,300 people. However, that was a seen as a coup d’état. The Rockefeller was a rock venue. Elephant9 were seen by many as a  jazz band. However, by the time they left the stage, Elephant9 had changed the audience’s mind. They’ve continued to do so. By the time Silver Mountain was being mixed by Mattias Glava and mastered by Espen Berg at the Livingroom Studio, Elephant9 were one of the stars of the Norwegian scene. 

That became evident when critics heard Elephant9’s fourth album Sliver Mountain. They called Sliver Mountain Elephant9’s finest album. Is that the case? That’s what I’ll tell you.

Occidentali opens Silver Mountain. It’s a fourteen minute musical adventure. Moody, broody and cinematic. That describes the combination of rhythm section, guitar and synths strings. They add a cinematic hue. Sometimes, there’s a world music music influence. Other times, Elephant9 seem to be picking up where Can left off. Big, bold chords are played in keyboards, before Elephant9 seem to draw inspiration from a sixties film noir soundtrack. Partly, it’s the cinematic synths. Then Elephant9’s rhythm section lock horns with bold, confident keyboards. All of a sudden, the arrangement becomes spartan, with just washes of guitars and percussion combining. Waves of jarring feedback is briefly unleashed. It intermingles with the arrangement, before Elephant9 kick out the jams. Free jazz, classic rock, psychedelia, electronica and space rock all melt into one. Welcome to the machine. The spirit of Hendrix is combines with stabs and washes of ferocious keyboards. By then, Elephant9 are in full flow, and have locked into the tightest of grooves, producing driving, blistering, mesmeric, rocky music.

I’ve never been a fan of the Motown machine. Especially the saccharine sugar of tracks like You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. Elephant9 however, try and make a believer of even the biggest Motown agnostic. They turn the track into a ten minute epic. Distant drums pitter patter, percussion plays and a myriad of futuristic sounds are added. It seems Elephant9 are toying with Stevie’s  saccharine sugar single. As sci-fi sounds punctuate the arrangement, a pulsating bass plays. Washes of Hammond organ are joined by chiming, crystalline guitars and the rhythm section lock down a groove. Still, Elephant9 reinvent a familiar track. It’s taking on a spacey, electronic sound. All the time, the rhythm section are creating a hypnotic groove. Stabs and washes of Hammond organ join sci-fi sounds and a quivering, shimmering guitar solo. Slowly, something new and innovative unfolds. A groundbreaking, genre-melting epic takes shape and a familiar track takes on new life and meaning.

Abhartach is the second track penned by keyboardist Ståle Storløkken. The rhythm section are joined by bursts of buzzing keyboards. Elements of Cream, Can and Neu! can be heard as the arrangement begins to unfold. Then there’s an explosion of shrieking, sometimes cinematic synths strings. They’re joined by squelchy, buzzing synths and banks of keyboards. By then elements of classic rock, psychedelia, electronica, free jazz, prog rock and space rock are playing their part in this glorious, mesmeric jam. There’s more than a nod to Hawkwind, Yes and Rick Wakeman. Elephant9 it seems, are musical magpies, seeking inspiration from all four corners of their record collections. For nine minutes, they pay homage to those who have inspired them, on what can only be described as a genre-melting opus. 

Kungsten is a twenty minute musical voyage of discovery. There’s a brief nod to Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, before the clock strikes and Elephant9 explode into action. They’re not unlike the Jimi Hendrix Experience. As drums pound, and guitars soar above the arrangement, there’s an urgency about Elephant9. They play as one, the rhythm section driving the arrangement along. This allows the searing guitars and cinematic keyboards to fill in the spaces. Rene Feiske unleashes a scorching solo, while briefly, the keyboards are reminiscent of Tubeway Army’s Are Friends Electric? As the song progresses, the urgency increases, and a dark dramatic sound emerges. Mostly, that’s down to Ståle Storløkken’s expressive keyboards. They drone as the rest of Elephant9 have their pedals firmly on the metal. After reaching a dramatic crescendo at seven minutes, the tempo drops and an eerie, cinematic soundscape. Think Wim Wender’s Paris Texas or David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Then after ten minutes, Elephant9 kick loose for another three minutes. Cinematic guitars, bass and washes of synths combine to create a beautiful backdrop. Again, it sounds as if it belongs on a soundtrack. By then, Elephant9 seem to have drawn inspiration from Pink Floyd. The music is lysergic and cinematic. That’s until one more time, Elephant9 kick loose, and run for the hills, completing this monumental  musical voyage of discovery.

Closing Silver Mountain is The Above Ground Sound. At twenty-two minutes long, it’s a real epic. This allows Elephant9 the opportunity to take a few twists and turns. For the first four minutes, the music is moody, dramatic and cinematic. It’s mostly just the rhythm section and percussion. Guitars are used sparingly, but when they’re unleashed they add to this unnerving soundscape. It’s a similar case with the keyboards. When they’re used, they prove effective. Gradually, the arrangement builds. What sounds like a siren sound, then the guitars and keyboards go toe-to-toe. These two musical titans embark upon a musical duel, and proceed to feed off each other. Urgent and frenzied, thanks in part to the driving, thunderous rhythm section and banks of keyboards. Then all of a sudden, just a lone acoustic guitar plays. By then, Elephant9 remind me of Led Zeppelin in their prime. As they draw breath, the acoustic guitar and drums combine. Synth strings are added as understated ambient soundscape unfolds. It’s reminiscent of Klause Doldinger. However, something is stirring. Rumbling drums, a blistering guitar and banks of keyboards cut loose. Prog rock is the order of the day. So is the classic rock of the late-sixties and seventies. There’s even a nod to The Doors around nineteen minutes. From there, those musical adventurers Elephant9 complete their fourth an finest album Silver Mountain.

Not only is Silver Mountain the finest album of Elephant9’s career, but one of the best albums of 2015. It features music that’s ambitious, bold, exciting and innovative. Continually, Elephant9 push musical boundaries. To do this, they combine musical genres. Everything from ambient, the classic rock of the late-sixties and seventies, electronica, experimental, free jazz, Krautrock, prog rock, psychedelia and space rock can be heard on Sliver Mountain. It’s a captivating journey through musical genres and influences.

Listen carefully, and you’ll hear everyone from Can, Hawkwind, Jimi Hendrix, Klaus Doldinger, Kraftwerk, Led Zeppelin, Neu!, Pink Floyd, Rick Wakeman, Ry Cooder, The Doors, Tubeway Army and Yes. Some of these influences can be heard only briefly, while others are more noticeable. Closer to home, another of Norway’s leading bands Motorpscycho also seem to have influenced Elephant9, as they take listeners on this magical musical mystery tour.

One thing you learn quickly, is never, ever try and second guess Elephant9. Continually, they take twists and turns throughout Silver Mountain. They lead you down blind alleys, only to find an escape route. Out of a blistering slice of rock comes an ethereal ambient soundscape. That’s what you quickly come to expect from Elephant9 on Silver Mountain, which will be released by Rune Grammofon on 16th October 2015.

This is the perfect home for Elephant9. Rune Grammofon always releases music that’s ambitious, bold, exciting and innovative. They don’t shy away from risk. Continually, they’ve been rewarded by their bravery, by releasing albums that are lauded and released to widespread critical acclaim. This includes  Elephant9’s career defining album Silver Mountain. 

It’s been well worth the wait, and features a group at the peak of their power. Silver Mountain is like a journey onboard a musical roller coaster. The music veers between moody and broody, to dramatic and cinematic. Other times it’s progressive and rocky. Occasionally it’s ethereal, understated and lysergic. Always though, Elephant9’s music is ambitious, bold, exciting and innovative on Silver Mountain, which is a monumental  musical voyage of discovery.

ELEPHANT9 WITH REINE FISKE-SILVER MOUNTAIN.

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