ELEPHANT9-GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH.
Elephant9-Greatest Show On Earth.
Label: Rune Grammofon.
After releasing two critically acclaimed albums with legendary Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske, a new chapter began for Elephant9 in October 2017 as they began work on their fifth studio album Greatest Show On Earth at Studio Paradiso. This was the first album that the core trio of Elephant9 had recorded since Walk The Nile in May 2009.
Walk The Nile was a game-changer of an album, that the three members of Elephant9 would never forget as it had totally transformed their nascent career. It had been released to widespread critical acclaim in March 2010 and went on to win a Spellemannprisen Award. After that, Elephant9 released two albums with Reine Fiske, 2012s Atlantis and Silver Mountain which had been released in October 2015. Two years later, Elephant9 were about to release the followup Greatest Show On Earth which was recently released by Rune Grammofon. The prophetically titled and genre-melting Greatest Show On Earth is a welcome return from Elephant9, and the latest chapter in a story that began in 2006.
That was 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 trio consisted of experienced and talented musicians who had a reputation for producing ambitious and innovative music. That had been the case throughout their careers, when they had worked on a variety of projects.
The elder statesman of the trio was keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, who was thirty-seven in 2006. He had been a member of a number of bands including Audun Kleive Generator X, Veslefrekk, Pocket Corner, Humcrush, Pocket Corner and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Each of these groups had released at least one album, and so had the other groups Ståle Storløkken was involved with, Bol, Cucumber and Supersilent. It seemed Ståle Storløkken had an insatiable thirst for making 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 of these band had released two albums, and Torstein Lofthus was no stranger to the recording studio or live scene. It was a similar case with third member of the trio bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen.
He had just turned twenty-eight in 2006, and was the youngest member of the trio. Just like the other members of the trio he was already an experienced musician. Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen was already a member of Big Bang and The National Bank, who were regarded as rising stars of the Norwegian music scene. Despite this, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen was keen to join the nascent trio, and like many Norwegian musicians was a member of several bands.
That was also the case with Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus, who 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 eleven years later, they would still be together and enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim. Before that, the new group had to change its name.
For much of the first year, the nascent band spent time honing their sound. When they made their first tentative steps onto the live circuit critics upon hearing Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus described the music as a mixture of fusion, progressive rock and neo-psychedelia. Before long, Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus’ music was already proving popular on the live scene. 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, and already the nascent band were preparing to release their much-anticipated debut album Dodovoodoo. It was due for release on the Norwegian label Rune Grammofon in May 2008. However, before that, critics had their say on Elephant9’s debut album Dodovoodoo.
Critics were impressed by Dodovoodoo and lavished praise and plaudits on Elephant9’s groundbreaking, genre-melting debut album. Some critics went as far as to forecast a big future for Elephant9, and tipped them as a band to watch.
Buoyed by the critic’s response to Dodovoodoo, the three members of Elephant9 returned to the live circuit, where they over the next few weeks and months they began to play in front of bigger audiences. Elephant9 who had only been together for two years, had come a long way in a relatively short space of time. However, before long, Elephant9’s thoughts turned
Walk The Nile.
Just over a year after the release of Dodovoodoo in March 2008, Elephant9 returned to the studio to record their much-anticipated sophomore album, Walk The Nile. Elephant9 returned to Grand Sport Studio, where they had recorded their debut album Dodovoodoo. After settling into the familiar surrounding of Grand Sport Studio, Elephant9 set about replicating one of their much vaunted live performances. They came pretty closes as they unleashed a spellbinding, genre-melting performance. Elements of fusion, jazz and rock were combined by Elephant9 at Grand Sport Studio by Elephant9 who reached new heights, on what was the most important album of their career.
Before the release of Walk The Nile, Elephant9’s eagerly awaited sophomore album won over both jazz and rock critics who championed the album When Walk The Nile was released by Rune Grammofon, it was to widespread critical acclaim.
Record buyers were also won over by Walk The Nile, and Elephant9 were on their way to becoming one of Norway’s leading bands. However, Elephant9’s career got another boost later in 2008.
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 much wider audience. For a group being hailed one of the rising stars of Norway’s vibrant and thriving music scene, 2010 was suddenly getting even better. However, just as it looked like things couldn’t get even better for Elephant9 they did.
Later in 2010, the shortlist for Spellemannprisen Awards were announced, and Elephant9 found their name on the shortlist in the jazz category. The Spellemannprisen Awards which are the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award were the most prestigious in Norwegian music, and 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, but they weren’t going to rest on their laurels.
Live At The BBC.
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 switched 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 progressive rock guitarist Reine Fiske. He had made his name with Dungen, and then had joined Reform. However, when he first collaborated with Elephant9, Reine was a member of Sylvester Schlegel’s band The Guild. With Reine Fiske onboard, Elephant9 began work on their third album Atlantis. Once the album was completed, it was scheduled for release later in 2012.
Before Rune Grammofon released Atlantis in October 2012, critics had their say on Elephant9’s third studio album. 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, and now it was a case of onwards and upwards for Elephant9.
That proved to be the case as Elephant9 took to the stage at some of Norway’s biggest festivals after the release of Atlantis. The biggest and most prestigious festival was the Kongsberg Jazzfestival. Elephant9 also won over audiences at Union Scene, and Victoria, before rounding off 2012 with an appearance at Najonal Jazzscene.
After releasing Atlantis to critical acclaim and commercial success, critics and record buyers awaited the release of Elephant9’s fourth album. However, they were in for a long wait, as the three members of Elephant9 were busy with other musical projects. As a result, it was a case of fitting the recording of Elephant9’s fourth album Silver Mountains into Ståle Storløkken, Torstein Lofthus and Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen busy schedules.
In October 2014, Elephant9 returned to the studio where they were once again, joined by Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske. The quartet recorded four tracks penned by Elephant9 and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. These tracks became Elephant9’s fourth album Silver Mountains.
Another year passed before Rune Grammofon released Silver Mountains in October 2014. By then, critics had already hailed Sliver Mountain as the finest album of Elephant9’s career. Record buyers agreed, and the Elephant9 success story continued apace.
Greatest Show On Earth.
Two years after the release of Silver Mountains, the three members of Elephant9 returned to Studio Paradiso in October 2017, where they were about to record their fifth album Greatest Show On Earth. This time, there was no sign of Reine Fiske, who many critics thought was the final piece of the jigsaw. These critics thought that Reine Fiske’s guitar filled and completed Elephant9’s sound. However, when recording began, it was just the core trio of Elephant9 that featured on Greatest Show On Earth.
Prior to the recording session of Greatest Show On Earth, Elephant9 unpacked their impressive musical arsenal which they had put to good use on four studio albums and a live album. Keyboardist Ståle Storløkken was soon showing his versatility as he switched between Fender Rhodes, Hammond Organ, grand piano, mellotron, Minimoog and Eminent 310 string synth. This time around, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen played electric while drummer Torstein Lofthus also added percussion. Making a guest appearance on Greatest Show On Earth was Pakka who added bells on what was a very different album from Elephant9.
As Greatest Show On Earth took shape, it became apparent that parts of six tracks were much more structured than on previous albums. However, there were still parts where a freewheeling Elephant9 could enjoy the opportunity to improvise as they drew inspiration from disparate influences and genres, including Krautrock and the Canterbury Scene. Elsewhere, on Greatest Show On Earth Elephant9 a fully focused Elephant9 fused elements of fusion, jazz and progressive rock, and seamlessly changed keys and time signatures on tracks that lasted between five and seven minutes. Eventually, Elephant9’s fifth album Greatest Show On Earth was completed later in 2017, and all that remained was for the album to be mixed and mastered.
Elephant9 mixed Greatest Show On Earth with Christian Engfelt, who had recorded the album with Marcus Forsgen. With the album mixed, Jørgen Træen mastered Greatest Show On Earth at Super Grotten in November 2017. Three months later, and Elephant9’s fifth album Greatest Show On Earth was released by Rune Grammofon.
Just the bass, subtle hissing hi-hats and soon, drums are joined by lo-fi synths to create a dark, hypnotic and cinematic backdrop. They’re soon joined by a Fender Rhodes, synth strings and bells which add to the eerie, mesmeric, cinematic sound. Later, swells of synth strings add a chilling, haunting sound during as drums provide the heartbeat and the bass meanders along and is joined by the lo-fi synth. By then, it’s as if Elephant9 have been asked to create the soundtrack to short Nordic horror movie. They succeed in doing so, as they combine disparate genres to create a spellbinding cinematic soundscape that is chilling, haunting, hypnotic and guaranteed to set the listener’s imagination racing.
Very different is Actionpack1 where the tempo rises as the rhythm section and keyboards power the rocky arrangement along. Soon, synth strings and blurts of synths are added to an arrangement that is big and bold. It veers between cinematic to rocky and sometimes, takes on sci-fi sound. Elephant9 who are in full flight then showcase their versatility as they seamlessly change time signature. By then, they’re already combined elements of rock, psychedelia, progressive rock and electronica, before heading in the direction of while a myriad of sci-fi synths beep, squeak and blurt out a seemingly secret code. They’re joining by washes of swirling Hammond organ before the arrangement reaches a crescendo. This isn’t the end and soon, Elephant9 burst into life and thunderous drums power the arrangement along as virtuoso keyboardist Ståle Storløkken picks up where he left off on before this genre-melting odyssey comes to a close after nearly seven magical minutes.
Farmer’s Secret has a stop start introduction, and it’s as if Elephant9 is toying with the listener as the Hammond organ and rhythm section combine. All the time, drums and bas power the arrangement along, before what sounds like a cathedral organ emerges from the depth of the progressive arrangement. Later, the Hammond organ replicates the sound found on many classic sixties and seventies album. By then, Ståle Storløkken is unleashing a fleet fingered masterclass and inspires the rest of Elephant9 as they reach new heights. As they do, they combine elements of classic rock, modern classical music, progressive rock, psychedelia and myriad of space age sounds. At the heart of the arrangement are Ståle Storløkken’s keyboards which play a starring role. He leaves space for the rest of Elephant9 as they power the arrangement to an uber rocky crescendo and in doing so, reach new heights on this genre-melting epic.
Stabs of keyboards sit atop Dancing With Mr. E’s progressive, cinematic arrangement as Elephant9 eschews the traditional 4/4 time signature. Just like on previous tracks, this allows Elephant9 to showcase their versatility and innovate. Elephant9’s rhythm section enjoy the opportunity to do so as they join with the Hammond organ to drive the arrangement along. By then, the arrangement has taken on a machine-like sound that is reminiscent of seventies Krautrock and progressive rock. Meanwhile, Ståle Storløkken adds bursts of cinematic synths which adds the final piece of the jigsaw. Soon, the time signature changes and a freewheeling Elephant9 in quick succession combine elements of free jazz, fusion and progressive rock. They play with freedom and fluidly and create genre-melting music that is inventive, innovative, cerebral and as the tempo increases impressive and cinematic.
Dreamy, lysergic and eerie describes Mystery Blend as the rumbling bass combines with keyboards. Sometimes, the bass takes centre-stage before the keyboards play a supporting role. However, when the Hammond organ enters, it’s initially happy to costar, before it starts to make its presence felt. It lumbers into the arrangement its dark, ominous sound swirling and swelling as the bass plays. Meanwhile, the Hammond organ is played with a degree of urgency as washes and swells add a progressive and cinematic sound. By then, drums provide the heartbeat whiles stabs, runs and swells of keyboards are added as the tempo increases and add to the drama. Elephant9 again play with a fluidity and inventiveness as they create imaginative filmic music.
As Freaks closes Greatest Show On Earth, drums pound and with the bass power the arrangement along and the Hammond organ briefly replicates the type of music heard at a carnival. Soon, though washes of cinematic synths are added and the arrangement becomes eerie, moody and dramatic. Adding to the drama is the drums before the carnival organ returns and adds to the urgency as the arrangement is powered and skips along. All three members of Elephant9 play their part and before long, Elephant9’s rhythm section is in full flight and joined by swells and swirling keyboards. Meanwhile, the arrangement veers between rocky to psychedelic, progressive and dramatic to stirring and uplifting as Elephant9 close the Greatest Show On Earth on a resounding high.
After just over a two-year wait, Elephant9 recently returned with their much-anticipated fifth album Greatest Show On Earth, which was released by Rune Grammofon. Greatest Show On Earth is their first album to feature just the core trio of Elephant9 since Walk The Nile. However, Elephant9 have come a long way since Walk The Nile.
Since then, Elephant9 have released two albums with Reine Fiske, 2012s Atlantis and 2015s Silver Mountain. The addition of guitarist Reine Fiske was seen as the missing piece of the jigsaw. However, his absence on Greatest Show On Earth certainly hasn’t left a gaping hole in Elephant9’s sound. That is far from the case. After all, not every band needs a guitarist. Elephant9 certainly don’t, as they’ve got virtuoso keyboardist Ståle Storløkken who unleashes a veritable musical arsenal that includes a Fender Rhodes, Hammond Organ, grand piano, mellotron, Minimoog and Eminent 310 string synth. This array of keyboards are perfectly capable of replacing Reine Fiske’s guitar on Elephant9’s critically acclaimed fifth album Greatest Show On Earth.
What’s noticeable about Greatest Show On Earth is that it’s a much more structured album that Elephant9’s previous albums. While much of Greatest Show On Earth was fully composed there were opportunities for a freewheeling Elephant9 to improvise. This is something that Elephant9 excel at as they fuse disparate influences including the progressive rock of Focus, King Crimson and Yes with the fusion of Miles Davis, Tony Williams Lifetime and Weather Report. However, Elephant9 fuse more to the Greatest Show On Earth than fusion and progressive rock. Elephant9 flit between and fuse avant-garde, free jazz, Krautrock, psychedelia, the Canterbury Scene and rock. Not content with fusing an array genres and influences, Elephant9 seamlessly change keys and time signatures during Greatest Show On Earth, which is another album of imaginative, inventive and innovative music where this talented trio play with a freedom and fluidity.
Throughout Greatest Show On Earth, Elephant9 throw a series of musical curveballs as the music veers between cinematic to lysergic to broody and moody to dark and dramatic to eerie and haunting to stirring and uplifting and everything in between. Always, though the music on the genre-melting odyssey that is Greatest Show On Earth is ambitious, bold, cerebral, exciting, innovative and intoxicating as is veers between cinematic to rocky. That comes as no surprise as Elephant9 features three master musicians as they return to their roots and reach new heights on a career defining opus that for the time being is the Greatest Show On Earth.
Elephant9-Greatest Show On Earth.
- Posted in: Avant Garde ♦ Electronic ♦ Experimental ♦ Free Jazz ♦ Jazz ♦ Jazz Fusion ♦ Krautrock ♦ Nordic Wave ♦ Prog Rock ♦ Psychedelia ♦ Rock
- Tagged: Atlantis, Dodovoodoo, Elephant9, Greatest Show On Earth, Jørgen Træen, Live At The BBC, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen, Reine Fiske, Rune Grammofon, Silver Mountains, Ståle Storløkken, Torstein Lofthus, Walk The Nile