This promising Norwegian band hails from the wonderful city of Bergen that I visited during a trip through West-Norway, an unforgettable experience. But back to the music, I am not familiar with Shaman Elephant and their debut album entitled Crystals (from 2016), that got many positive reviews. Now four years later Shaman Elephant releases the successor entitled Wide Awake But Still Asleep. The band is about the music: “This new album is our attempt to make melodies move like butterflies, while the grooves sting like killer bees.” Great metaphor! And I notice that the band loves to use contrasts, like the butterflies and the killer bees, and the name of the album, Wide Awake But Still Asleep.
These contrasts are also the main ingredient in Shaman Elephant's music: simply structured, with the focus on compelling and hypnotizing atmospheres, between dreamy and heavy. The one moment mellow with tender acoustic guitar and melancholic vocals, the other moment a slow rhythm with Mellotron flute or an up-tempo with raw rock guitar, lush Hammond organ, an aggressive bass and screamy vocals. To me the seven compositions sound like a blend of psychedelia and post rock, with an inventive colouring by the keyboards (from organ and electric piano to Mellotron flutes), and emotional vocals and moving guitar work.
My highlight is the epic track Traveler. It starts heavy with raw propulsive guitar work and powerful and emotional vocals, with a catchy up-tempo beat. Halfway the music turns into more mellow with hypnotizing guitar work and tender electric piano runs. Gradually the music becomes lusher, a pretty compelling climate, with an aggressive sounding bass and propulsive guitar riffs, along spacey vocal harmonies. This could have been a psychedelic jam in The Sixties!
If you are up to psychedelic music or post rock this is a fine album to discover.
***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)
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