Winners of the “Write a Club d’Elf review” contest!

Announcing the winners of our contest: Tommy Smith, Chris Weekly & Jason Snyder. Sniff…if only there were more folks like these folks out there, it would be…i don’t know, a better world? At least one where more people bought our music! And thats a good place to start. Btw, this contest is still OPEN! Win a free download of D’Elfian goodness! And badness!

1. The CD That Will Forever Change Your Life (Amazon review)

Electric Moroccland/So Below is Mike Rivard’s magnum opus, a quintessential and perfectly balanced work that somehow encompasses the whole of the d’Elf journey on two CDs.

I’ve been a diehard d’Elf fan since 2002 when I inadvertently discovered their live performances through a site called DarkFunk.com, which hosts live Miles Davis recordings from the 60s and 70s. Needless to say I was blown away by what I heard but I wasn’t overpowered. The experience was subtle, gradual and thoroughly engaging. It has greatly influenced me as a jazz pianist and my wife as a tribal fusion belly dancer.

Enthralled from the beginning by the concept and what I was hearing I honed my understanding of the band by downloading a number of shows available at archive.org. I noticed each time a song was performed, the only static element was Rivard’s bass line, all else was subject to the interpretation of the players. This ingenious idea yields a boundless variety of flavors that has managed to keep me intrigued ever since. The fact that Rivard has successfully captured the essence of this evolution on CD is a testament to his personal passion and appreciation for this beautiful intangible thing he has created.

Here was this formless funk infused by a progressive yet minimalistic sensibility and manipulated by the dramatis personae of truly innovative players gathered on any given night. The sound was raw, unrehearsed and beyond the scope of genre. An idiom might be implied by certain instrumentations (trance, jazz, Gnawa, electronica, ambient, drum/bass, funk, blues, et al.) but this wasn’t music for purists. Club d’Elf is a Mecca, an uninhibited haven for musicians of all calibers, influences, religions and ethnicities to express themselves through improvisation and open musical conversation. The music ebbs and flows, sometimes it is vibrant, organic and random while other times it is cold, dark and deterministic. There are layers of dissonance, rhythmic inflection and time signatures that bend the Western mind yet elsewhere the music is lush and soothing, conforming to the mind like cool water. Regardless, at the heart of it all there will always be the mantric groove binding it together.

Part of the genius of Club d’Elf is in the willingness of each player to step forward and command the music, often with a frenetic virtuosity that can challenge the ear of many listeners. However, those same musicians, whose ability and ego work in true tandem then vanish fluidly back into the amorphous soundscape, nudging things gently and in no particular rush (live d’Elf tracks often cross the 30 minute mark). And the perpetually pulsing engine driving this Protean machine is the haunting and unfaltering groove forged by the fingertips of Mike Rivard with Haephestean precision. From his vantage point he stirs the water lazily, giving every idea time to bloom without becoming stagnant.

Electric Moroccoland/So Below tells the story of Club d’Elf if you listen closely. There is the influence of perhaps a prime mover in the d’Elf saga Mark Sandman (Rope on Fire, So Below), who exposed Rivard to Moroccan trance. There is the story of Rivard’s quest to master the sintir and his exploration of Moroccoan styles. On Trance Meeting you will hear samples of Terence McKenna, whose hyper-dimensional elves influenced the name of the band. And then there is the cast of 25 musicians (representing a total cast of nearly 100) who somehow shape the shapeless by impishly evading definition and style. Through d’Elf I’ve learned of players with unique voices like Dave Tronzo (slide guitar), Joe and Matt Maneri (sax and electric viola respectively), DJ Rourke (turntables), Jere Faison (sampler), Paul Schultheis (keys), Alain Mallet (keys) and Brahim Fribgane (oud, percussion) arguably the most influential member of the band. I also recognized many familiar names on the roster like John Medeski (keys), Reeves Gabrels (guitar), DJ Logic (turntables) and Dave “Fuze” Fiuczynski (guitar).

For me personally, the highlights include Scorpionic, Berber Song, Sidi Rabi, Rope on Fire, Middle Pillar, So Below, Salvia and Trance Meeting. By all means, start here with Electric Moroccoland/So Below but don’t stop. Visit archive.org and delve into the innovations a dozen years in the making. Also be sure to check out the other CDs (Now I Understand, Perhapsody, Gravity All Nonsense, Live Athens 3/28/02). -Tommy Smith

2. Indescribably Awesome (eMusic review)

And awesomely indescribable. Either way, this is just an incredible band and this latest release is among their best work. Bassist/sintirist/composer Micro Vard lays such a solid foundation and brings in influences from *everywhere*. I love the Oud work on Ambib and Instar, and Gettin Squinty and So Below are highlights for me on the 2nd disc, but the whole thing flows so well it’s hard to pick tracks. Get the whole thing and put on some headphones, it’s a rewarding trip. 10/10, A+. – Chris Weekly

3. Moroccan Dub Vacation (iTunes review)

The many friends and members of this Moroccan trance band have come up with a double disc that will knock your socks off. Club d’Elf brings in Brahim Fribgane’s oud to the first CD and drops you right in the middle of the streets of Morocco.The second disc, So Below, let’s you slink in the dark shadows with the help of John Medeski and DJ Logic and many other talented musicians. This double disc will show you how d’elves do it, with swirling jazz to bubbling dub, they shimmer in the darkness. Don’t pass this richly layered studio album up!
-Jason Snyder

Thanks, guys. Ladies?