Wednesday, 21 June 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Elder - "Reflections of a Floating World"

By: David Jupp

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 02/06/2017
Label: Stickman Records |
Armageddon Shop

‘Reflections of a Floating World’ is both a glance back and a stride forward. The direct nature of some of the riffs and the weight of their execution sit it comfortably between ‘Spires Burn/Release’ and ‘Lore.’ The expansion of ambition and variety in musical approach however, keep Elder’s eyes firmly fixed on the horizon


“Reflections of a Floating World” CD//CS//DD//LP track listing:

1. Sanctuary
2. The Falling Veil
3. Staving Off Truth
4. Blind
5. Sonntag
6. Thousand Hands

The Review:

The release of a new record from one of your favourite bands can be a bittersweet affair. The journey home from the record shop is one of both trepidation and anticipation. ‘Oh God, what if it’s shit? But hang on, what if it’s better – surely it can’t be better?’ Not that a record should only be framed in the context of its predecessors but with an LP as good as ‘Lore’ the possibility of something superior incurs such fantasies with ease.
When it comes to
Elder and their fourth long-player ‘Reflections of a Floating World’ the answer to these questions is a simple yet complex one. Is it shit? Absolutely not! Is it better than ‘Lore’? Now that requires some discussion...
Having followed
Elder from their outstanding coming-of-age effort ‘Dead Roots Stirring’ (2011), through follow-up EP ‘Spires Burn/Release’ (2012) and then on to 2015’s list-topping masterpiece ‘Lore,’ Elder’s ascension to the peak of the heavy underground is completely justified. They are a band I have watched progress and grow over the last six years and their post-debut trilogy of records would all fight for a place in my desert-island record bag.
Reflections of a Floating World’ sees an expansion to the formula that has served them so well. Having pushed about as far as a power-trio can on ‘Lore,’ the addition of second guitarist/keyboard player Mike Risberg is an exciting one. Not only can Nick DiSalvo ditch the loop pedal hopscotch but for a band built on the interweaving of melody, a second thread in the loom can only be a good thing.
Album four sets flight with ‘Sanctuary,’ a cut that has been around since the early touring for ‘Lore.’ Its proximity in creation to the last record can be felt in both melody and structure and it serves as a superb ‘previously on
Elder’ recap. Thankfully the constituent parts that make Elder such an exciting prospect are all still here; Gargantuan riffs, emotive melodic leads and stop-start atmospheric interludes.  More importantly, just as on ‘Lore’ the band's ability to whittle, refine and expand these parts is too. The opening down tuned notes of ‘Sanctuary’ gives a huge nod to fan-favourite ‘Gemini’ and within seconds the trademark time-signature origami is deployed.
For a band that revels in songs that outlast ten minutes, an ability to carve act and movement into each journey is vital. As ‘Sanctuary’ approaches the halfway mark and climbs to its apex,
Elder deliver one of the best melodic runs they have ever written. But before you can grasp hold, and with typical poise, they abandon it for a quieter interlude that folds in on itself for over five minutes, eventually erupting into an explosion of everything that makes Elder great.
Similarly to
Russian Circles, Elder have mastered the art of holding a riff to the light for just enough time to take it in, before whipping it away and replacing it with something different. Whilst early listens of the record can prove frustrating as you try and grasp each pattern, subsequent listens bring you ever closer to the familiarity that opens up the narrative.
Track two ‘The Falling Veil’ is an intricate exercise in this very process and across its eleven-minute zoetrope of ideas not once is the groove and binding thread lost. DiSalvo scatters riffs into view with his traditional dexterity but before they can land the wheel is spun and new ideas click into place. Jack Donavon’s bass and Matt Couto’s drums supply a base to this kaleidoscope, one that also twists and turns against the flow, always keeping things interesting.
Staving off Truth’ is up next and follows a similar blueprint. DiSalvo’s vocals take a more prominent role this time delivering a decent vocal melody. The riffs however are not quite up to the standard of previous tracks and the song hints at a large payoff that never quite emerges.
Blind’ sees the first glimpse of the expansion in sound a fourth member offers. Distorted drums and tremolo guitar flicker in the distance before a vintage
Elder riff slams into earshot. A galloped tee-up follows before falling away into an organ backed vocal refrain. DiSalvo’s vocal suits this treatment and as the pulsing keys dissolve, a bludgeoning half time riff pierces the swell. The band’s ability to fuse ideas together with arpeggio enables them to shape a collection of moments into a cohesive whole. It is perhaps this glue that was absent on ‘Staving off Truth.’ 
Similarly to ‘Sanctuary’ the halfway mark provides an exceptional guitar-lead zenith. The production on ‘Reflections of a Floating World’ follows on from ‘Lore’ but the variety of tones has been expanded, and here a more traditional stoner-fuzz punctures the storm. ‘Blind’ consists of a truly impressive array of ideas that fly by with surprising cohesion. The production allows each musician room to breathe in the mix and the last two minutes are all Donavan’s. His overdriven bass tows the song home under a typically intricate run of melody.
Sonntag’ follows next and delivers the album’s only misfire. Whilst relatively short in the context of the record, eight minutes is far too long to dedicate to an instrumental that doesn’t really go anywhere. It is perhaps an idea that was fun to play and meant to serve as a palette cleanser for the album closer to come. Sadly, for me it unnecessarily saps the momentum from the record and becomes
Elder’s first notable mistake.
Luckily the record finishes on a high. The audacious riff-Tetris returns and just as on ‘Lore,’ subtle strings are deployed to add another touch of epic to an already strong album. As the song rages to a close, the now staple guitar melodies flash and crack in the squall and the record comes to an outstanding close.

Elder have carved out their place at the helm of the underground with a unique sound crafted over time and through force of will. This unique identity is so pronounced in relation to the rest of the stoner canon that they run the risk of becoming our scene’s Radiohead. Whilst it is exciting to have such a talented band flying the flag it is important to be measured and genuine in our support.

Reflections of a Floating World’ is both a glance back and a stride forward. The direct nature of some of the riffs and the weight of their execution sit it comfortably between ‘Spires Burn/Release’ and ‘Lore.’ The expansion of ambition and variety in musical approach however, keep Elder’s eyes firmly fixed on the horizon. The welcome addition of a second guitar and keys also widens the lense through which to view their musical landscape. Not all of the angles succeed, but where the record undoubtedly blooms is in the refinement of the band’s ability to assemble their jigsaw of ideas. Whilst I’m not sure the finished piece surpasses that of ‘Lore’ it is a worthy addition to their discography and bodes well for an exciting continuation of their journey.
 “Reflections of a Floating World” is available

FFO: Sleep, Pallbearer, Samsara Blues Experiment, Baroness

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