ELEPHANT9- PSYCHEDELIC BACKFIRE I AND PSYCHEDELIC BACKFIREII WITH REINE FISKE

Elephant9 -Psychedelic Backfire I and Psychedelic Backfire II With Reine Fiske.

Label: Rune Grammofon.

There aren’t many bands who release two albums on the same day, but that is what Elephant9 did recently, when they released Psychedelic Backfire I and Psychedelic BackfireII With Reine Fiske on Rune Grammofon. These two albums feature the return of one of finest Norwegian jazz groups of their generation and is 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.

Dodovoodoo.

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. 

Atlantis 

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.

Silver Mountains.

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.

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.

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 despite the absence of guitarist Reine Fiske

The addition of guitarist Reine Fiske was seen as the missing piece of the jigsaw. He makes a welcome return on one of two albums that Elephant9 released recently. Psychedelic Backfire I the much-anticipated followup  to Greatest Show On Earth, features the core trio and was released on Rune Grammofon. The same day, Psychedelic Backfire II was  released and features Reine Fiske.

Psychedelic Backfire I.

Psychedelic Backfire I and II were recorded when Elephant9 played a four day residency at the intimate Kampen Bistro in the Norwegian capital Oslo. On both nights, Elephant9 were greeted by enthusiastic audiences as the local heroes took to the stage to showcase their rocky and grooving inimitable brand of jazz. 

On Psychedelic Backfire I, it’s just Elephant9 that take to the stage in this small venue, and from the opening bars are greeted like conquering heroes from the opening bars of I Cover The Mountain Top, which sets the bar high for the rest of the set. Elephant9 like a challenge and launch into Farmer’s Secret and then a seventeen minute version of Habanera Rocket spelt epic.  

By now, Elephant9 are combining disparate genres and never miss a beat during a spellbinding and flawless performance. Elephant9 are ate the peak of their powers with  the rhythm section locking down the groove as keyboards compliant and fill in the gaps, and prove that not every group needs a guitarist. Even if that guitarist was Reine Fiske. who guested on two previous albums.

After the seventeen minute opus, Elephant 9 launch into a thirteen minute rendition of SkinkFugl and Fønix, before closing the set this action packed set with Actionpack 1 and then Dodovoodoo. It’s the perfect way to close a set that lasts the best part of seventy-two minutes and is spread over four sides of vinyl. 

As those that were lucky enough to witness a genre-meting set where elements of avant-garde, free jazz, Krautrock, psychedelia and rock can be heard. It’s a musical potpourri that many thought wouldn’t be bettered. Or could it?

Psychedelic Backfire II With Reine Fiske.

For what became Psychedelic Backfire II, Elephant9 were joined by a very special guest and the man many believe is the missing link in the group,  guitarist Reine Fiske. This resulted in the album being entitled Psychedelic Backfire II with Reine Fiske.

For that night, Elephant9 were a back playing as a quartet, who had an almost telepathic understanding. That was the case from the moment they took to the stage at the Kampen Bistro in Oslo, and opened the set with a captivating cover of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life which gives way to Skink and Fugl Fønix then Habanera Rocket which both feature on Psychedelic Backfire I. That doesn’t matter as the expanded lineup take the tracks in new directions. 

Although virtuoso guitarist Reine Fiske is a special guest, he takes care not to overpower or overshadow the members of Elephant9. Even when the band are in full flight, as he expresses himself, he’s happy to compliment Ståle’s keyboards and together, they prove e successful and potent partnership. That is the case on Freedom’s Children and John Tinnick which closes the set and Psychedelic Backfire II on a high. Elephant9 With Reine Fiske take their leave knowing they had reached new heights during the residency. Those that were lucky enough to see the concert realised that they had witnessed something special which now has been released as Psychedelic Backfire II.

Elephant9 throw a series of musical curveballs during Psychedelic Backfire II, where the music is ambitious, innovative and just like on Psychedelic Backfire I, genre-melting. Psychedelic Backfire I and Psychedelic Backfire I are both spellbinding and captivating albums. On Psychedelic Backfire II three before four, as Reine Fiske joins forces with Elephant9, and prove a potent partnership, as they reach new heights. and showcase their considerable skills on what is the second of two breathtaking live albums.

Elephant9 -Psychedelic Backfire I and Psychedelic Backfire II With Reine Fiske.

 

 

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