Elephant9 with Reine Fiske: Silver Mountain

Second rip-snorting hook-up between the Norwegian trio and Swedish guitarist.

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Elephant9 come from what could loosely be called jazz backgrounds, but typical of the wide-ranging Norwegian scene, jazz means a lot more than just jazz, and at times doesn’t even have much jazz in it.

They’ve been compared to Miles Davis’ 70s bands, but the way the instruments correspond is far more rock. Lopsided repetitive riffs evoke Soft Machine circa Third and they have a dark intensity that sounds like Guapo, or early Caravan played by Pawn Hearts-era Van der Graaf Generator. With three tracks around 10 minutes and two over 20, the music is freewheeling and episodic rather than structurally complex. Occidental starts like a piece of Fourth World exotica with a syncopated drum figure, hanging guitar notes from Dungen guitarist Fiske and Ståle Storløkken’s eerie Mellotron. The musicians then navigate delicate acoustic guitar passages, abstract soundscapes and free-form freakouts, culminating in fuzz bass riffing with lashings of fuzz organ. Their playing is exceptional and it shines on a version of Steve Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, which goes from a low-key, mesmeric mesh of near-ambient sound to a full-throttle finale, bearing scant resemblance to the original.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.