Music

Elephant Revival: Sands of Now

Haunting and joyous, this is everything good folk music should be.


Elephant Revival

Sands of Now

Label: United Interests
US Release Date: 2015-07-24
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

Colorado folk balladeers Elephant Revival return for a new album, the fifth since their debut. Active since 2006, this band made up of Bonnie Paine, Bridget Law, Dango Rose, Daniel Rodriguez, and Charlie Rose incorporates elements of folk and Americana to craft a uniquely rich, intimately piercing sound. “Shadows Past", the dreamy album opener, mixes melodic picking and soft-spoken menace, launching from banjo-driven folk into a middle eastern fantasy scored with hand drums and Bridget Law’s screaming gypsy fiddle. Switching between modes with a whispered “one, two, three", the quintet evokes mystery, joy, and understated awe. Not bad for three minutes and change.

“Sands of Now", the title track, uses a Celtic melody touched with melancholy to celebrate abundance that is “bursting blue at the seams". The track has a laidback Django Reinhardt energy, and Law’s saucy, inventive playing brings the stars down to “a stone’s throw away". “Drop” revels in blues-flavored instrumentation and mind-bending surrealism. Bonnie Paine’s haunting vocals provide the gossamer thread that holds this track together, and the appreciative live audience on the recording agrees. “Fallout Fields” is lyrical and slow, reveling in whispery vocal harmonies. Like many Elephant Revival tracks, the song builds to an explosive, driving climax and features deftly interwoven playing. “The Garden” explores Eden imagery with a serpent’s “venom spitting riddles", but eschews bombast in favor of subtle, intricate melodies.

“Will Carry On” drifts in with a gentle unaccompanied female voice and meanders along towards acceptance that “we may never be perfect". Embellished with whistling and Law’s countryfied fiddle, the song is a sweet (but not saccharine) ode to contentment. “Spinning” continues the inspirational folk fest, while “Stolen” allows a rare note of lament to pass like La Llorona’s shadow over the otherwise ebullient Sands of Now. “Lost Creek” is whimsical and irreverent, almost abrasive at times, a bracing tonic in the midst of the album’s melodic flow. “Cosmic Pulse” meditates on time’s river while overlapping vocals and a soaring violin seduce into the realm of dreams. Playful and delicate, “Echo’s Rose” evokes romantic intrigue, while “Sing to the Mountain” closes the album on an appropriately majestic note, festooned with banjo, guitar, violin, and howls to the moon. The song is quietly epic, alive with mystery and a desire for connection. This is everything good folk music should be.

Elephant Revival doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Its music is beautifully played and conceived with intelligence and deep genre knowledge, but the individual elements that make it up were already there for the taking—the flotsam and jetsam of American music. The band’s talent lies not just in its playing, but in the way it combines different existing modes of folk music. Lyrics that would seem cliché in the hands of lesser musicians are elevated; traditional melodies sound fresh.

These songs are compiled with a refreshing lack of production overlay and artifice. They are clean and crisp, simply presented without being “gritty.” At once ephemeral and truthful, this restless music is perfectly suited to journeys both literal and spiritual. Elephant Revival is interested in exploring connections, and this remarkable album does just that: stitching a cosmic folk tapestry from whole cloth.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image