Two years ago, all I was aware of was that Elephant9 was yet another in a long line of collaborative groups on the Rune Grammofon label. Of course, then I heard their debut Dodovoodoo and was totally floored. Here was a trio of artists who took some of their influences and blew them up into something smoking, a fiery cocktail of jazz and rock and prog that had a much bigger sense of humor than a lot of the other work on the label.
More than just about any other scene I can think of, the Norwegian jazz (in all of its forms) scene is so incredibly flush with collaborative projects that it’s not out-of-line to see names with five or more projects behind them. Such is the case with the members of Elephant9, as Ståle Storløkken plays with Supersilent, Humcrush (and others), while Nikolai Eilertsen has done rock (Big Bang) and pop (The National Bank). Drummer Torstein Lofthus’ main gig is with Shining (who released their own head-crunching album earlier this year), but floats around with others as well.
After the release of that earlier album, I wondered if Elephant9 would be a one-off project, but fortunately it’s two years later and the trio have graced us with another great album of work. There isn’t a huge difference between the two albums in terms of style, but if anything Walk The Nile finds them tightening up their sound a bit, with a little less wandering in the woods and a much greater sense of build and payoff.
The only real slow-churner is the album-titled “Walk The Nile,” which grinds along for over 10 minutes with a repetitive rhythm section and some squalling organs that haunt more than anything. Elsewhere, the group spends most of the time either ripping things up or setting the blood to a slow boil as they get things ready to romp. The wonderful, 14-minute “Habanera Rocket” skitters along for nearly half of its running length with another insistent rhythm rumble while some melodic organ bursts set the stage. About halfway through, though, it builds to something seriously funky before dropping off for a long section of sheer psychedelia at the end. It’s a stunner.
If you want to really rockit, though, look no further than the opener of “Fugl Fonix.” At just under 4 minutes, it’s one of the most poppy things that the trio has ever done, with a crazy ascending bass, smashing drums, and some organ playing that dances over the top of it all in delightful ways.
“Fugl Fonix” – Elephant9
The album closer of “John Tinnick” is even more raucous, and is one of those cuts that’s so rocking an fun that it inspires air-instrumentation (although people might wonder what in the heck you’re doing). Clocking in at just over 4 minutes, it’s a burner that literally never lets off the gas pedal and sounds like the Jimmy Smith just shredding the hell out of it.
“John Tinnick” – Elephant9
Even more solid than their last release, this is a must-have if you liked what you heard from the group a couple years ago, or if you just like the Rune Grammofon sound (albeit one that lets its hair down a little bit more than most).