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Best of 2008:Tyson Lynn on the Power of Elves

Posted by December 6th, 2008 No Comments »

ALive & Kicking
Elf Power Live @ the High Dive
April 15, 2008
By Tyson Lynn

When Elf Power play, they crash through papered hours like furies enraged, giving everything to their performance (especially drummer Eric Harris, doing the spirit of Gene Krupa proud) and very little to stage banter, which is exactly how it should be. This is how it was when the band played the High Dive this spring.

If I sound a little surprised, it’s because for 15 years, Elf Power has shuttled between our murky earth and the strangely peopled heavens of their collective imagination. With every album enhancing their vision, from the early distortions of their basement four track to their newest release In the Cave, Elf Power has emerged as the Elephant 6 heir apparent, inexhaustibly combustible.

You’d think they had nothing to prove. Not so. If Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control are the forever heavies of the E6 sound, critically loved (unassailable) and cultish in their appeal, then Elf Power is more than a little on the nose in terms of names. Although their sonic wanderings weren’t any less pocketed with oases, people flocked to other prophets and left Elf Power to pound sand.

All of which is strange, as the one thing E6 did best was make the boundaries between bands as meaningless as possible. Over the years, Elf Power’s records featured Dave Wrathgeber (Fablefactory), Bryan Poole (Late B.P. Helium) , Roxanne Martin (Dixie Blood mustache, Fablefactory), Julian Koster (The Music Tapes, Neutral Milk Hotel), John and Will (The Olivia Tremor Control, The Circulatory System), W. Cullen Hart (The Olivia Tremor Control, The Circulatory System), Scott Spillane (Neutral Milk Hotel and The Gerbils), Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal), and Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel).

Elf PowerEven Orange Twin, the record label on which many of the E6 albums were released, is a cooperative venture, consisting of friendships and sustainable energies. But as the years went on, the Six Elephant Warriors grew long in the tusk, eventually settling down in cemeteries of unsung songs.

But Elf Powered on. Their newest, their ninth, was released late this year and documents the band exploring new twists in old territories. Dense collages of sound collide with experimental production over lilly-ridden melismatic rivers, while in the distance the deer, their elfin riders in leaf saddles, hoof softly at the bank as the stranded rocks yearn softly for the water.

These songs formed the bulk of their show: bruising guitar, explosive tempos and garden path melodic lines that leave in you in darker, more mysterious places than you planned.  For instance, fans in the front row danced like they thought they were invisible. I have some notes about their style, and nothing but love for their fervor.

Would that the rest of the city had responded so enthusiastically. Of Montreal just played a sold-out set at the Showbox; Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel put on a heavily-attended “surprise” tour; and Elf Power plays the High Dive for a crowd of dozens. That’s shameful, Seattle, and particularly dangerous when dealing with elves.


Check back throughout December for more on our 2008 favorites.

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