The Elephant Stone Review

February 6, 2013 at 8:31 am (Uncategorized)

Here’s a confession that a Beatle-phile like myself is loathe to make readily:  until about 10 years ago, I kinda hated the sitar as an instrument, especially as a rock instrument.  It was right up there with bagpipes for being a musical sound I didn’t really want getting anywhere near my rock and roll.

I can absolutely pinpoint when my attitude towards the instrument changed, and I actually posted it yesterday.  It was on the debut album from the Montreal band The High Dials.  The Dials had a bassist named Rishi Dhir who added sitar on a few songs, and they were remarkable.  On the Dials’ next album a song called “Our Time Is Coming Soon” has a sitar bridge on it that can only be described as magical.

I was a little bummed when Rishi left the High Dials after that second record, but was pleased when he formed a band of his own, The Elephant Stone.  I was even more pleased when I heard their debut album.  It was a little uneven, but the highs (“Bombs Bomb Away” for instance) were spectacular.  They quickly followed that with an EP that was even better–“Strangers” and “Yesterday’s Gurl” are as good as any guitar pop songs that came out in 2010.

It’s been a wait then, for something to follow on from that promising start.  In the intervening years, Rishi’s played sitar with a few other folks, and also put together a more permanent and formal band to comprise the Elephant Stone (I gather the initial group was more of a casual thing put together to record the songs as something of a trial balloon.)

So here we are in February of 2013 and we finally get the sophomore album, a self-titled affair.  I’m pleased to say that it continues the band’s progression of increasing excellence.  Rishi and his cohorts know their way around a three-minute pop song as well as anyone, and display that ably on songs like “Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin” and “Hold Onto Yr Soul”.

They’re also interested in plumbing a more psychedelic influence, and the eight minute jam “The Sea Of Your Mind” manages to be interesting enough to be worth that time spent.  Better yet is “A Silent Moment”, a swirling, sprawling number that manages to go deep into Indian culture while staying totally accessible to my western ears.  Here, check this video out:

Let me be clear here:  I have zero frame of reference for Indian culture and music, pretty much.  That song from the opening credits of “Ghost World” was cool, you know?  And so if you’d have told me two weeks ago that my favorite song so far in 2013 was going to have a guy named Vinay Bhide singing classical Indian vocals over a swirl of tabla, organ, and drone, I’d have thought you were nuts…but damned if that song doesn’t just crawl into your brain and take up permanent residence.

That’s the great and amazing takeaway I’m getting from this record, then.  The Elephant Stone were always a band with a great ear for hooks and sounds…but on “A Silent Moment”, “The Sea Of Your Mind” and “Sally Go ‘Round The Sun” they make a fantastic case for the cultural influence that Rishi’s self-description of their music as “Hindie Rock” has always hinted at.

Which brings me to the closing of the album.  The penultimate song is the 8-minutes plus opus “Sea Of Your Mind” mentioned above.  It is a song of beauty and noise, a song that turns the neat trick of being both easily accessible and challenging to the listener.  It closes with an absolute raveup of bawling guitar claxons, clanging sitar, and squalling feedback over a fantastic beat.  It’s wonderfully noisy.  It’s gloriously cacophonous.  It’s like being tossed about in a tiny boat on an ocean of dense and thunderous psychedelic waves that threaten to swamp everything.

And that song gives way to the album’s closer, “The Sacred Sound”.  Powered by a sweetly bowed string section and perhaps the most gorgeous melodic hook Rishi Dhir’s ever written (seriously, those strings are freakin’ heartbreakingly beautiful) the album brings you out of the storm and guides you gently and safely back home.  It is a brilliant bit of album sequencing here, one that wraps the entire record up with a lovely and satisfying conclusion.

Way too many times, a record I’ve been eagerly anticipating for a long period of time ends up disappointing my over-elevated expectations.  I’d no reason to think that it wouldn’t be the case with this album, either.  Imagine my surprise then, that the second long player from The Elephant Stone has not only been completely satisfying, in many ways it’s exceeding anything I had any reason to expect.  This is an early contender for record of the year, y’all.  Highly recommended.

1 Comment

  1. ethan said,

    great review

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