” data-original-title=””>Club d’Elf‘s debut album, As Above, speaks volumes in terms of the group’s mystical and stylistic roots. In fact, it is perfectly reflective of the actual ancient quote from which the title is taken; ‘As above, so below…’ suggests how the rhythm motifs are as fully and completely developed as the melodic themes.
Recorded in 1999 and 2000, at the Lizard Lounge in Boston, which has become
” data-original-title=””>Mike Rivard and company’s home base over the years, the original double CD set of 2000 has not been officially available in that format for some time. But now, in tandem with the group’s twenty-fifth anniversary tour, the music is accessible on streaming services, joining a discography that has grown somewhat fitfully but nonetheless surely in the quarter century since the group was formed.
The previous entry in the Club canon was the intoxicating studio album You Never Know (Face Pelt Records, 2022). It is an eclectic mix which is nothing more or less than a distillation of the exotic likes of this release’s “Now I Understand;” one of the five tracks extending into double figure duration over the course of these two-hours plus, it features horns from saxophonists Eric Hipp, Tom Hall and Joe Maneri, turntables by DJ Logic with bassist & founder Rivard in sync with drummers Erik Kerr and
The rotating cast of personnel, not to mention the expanse of style(s), have always kept the various members of the units alert and that is certainly the case here. Nothing drags to any great extent for the duration of these recordings and much of what maintains the attention is the detail of the audio as recorded by Anton Glovsky and Tom Dube. Along with Jere Faison and Scott Craggs, the latter mixed in such a way that a cut such as “Actual Smiles” is in a constant state of purposeful sonic flux via Brahim Fribgane‘s lively percussion as well as soothing swaths of
There is little doubt that bandleader & founder Rivard sets the course for the ensemble(s). Even so, the insistence of his playing, as well as the flexible and melodic nature of his approach, is too understated to become overly obvious or detract from the contributions of his bandmates on a selection such as “Taurobolium.” Of course, the elements of surprise are constant during the course of near-thirteen minutes on, for instance, “Left Hand of Clyde”; while the pace slows in the wake of Duke Levine‘s guitar near track’s end, it then turns downright cacophonous on the very next selection “Meet The Monster Tonight”; Club d’Elf demonstrates a consistent sense of direction.
The collective internal compass precludes losing the intrinsic logic of their interactions. Snippets of vocal and voice add to the psychedelic air of As Above, but Jerry Leake’s nimble percussion highlights “Get A Little Turning” and “In A Perfect World,” thus grounding the sound. Meanwhile, comparatively more familiar sounds of acoustic piano and pedal steel (?!) supply a contrast with didgeridoo on “Route of the Root;” The latter is one of a select few compositions here authored solely to Rivard as composer. In keeping with the improvisational nature of the performances, he is more often credited along with band members and other assorted like-minded souls. This is world music in the true sense of the label.
Despite that wide-ranging input, there is what may be an inevitable sense of sameness which creeps into certain intervals on the second CD. However, that apparent stasis is somewhat deceptive; if Club d’Elf was consistent enough, over the course of the six performances from which this set was taken, then it stands to reason Rivard, in his producer’s role, would have a wealth of content from which to assemble such a accurate facsimile of a real-time concert.
Such an observation is certainly not to disparage such an accomplishment, but only to pinpoint more the veracity of the premise behind the creation of this band in general and As Above in specific.
Now I Understand; Shadow’s Shift; Actual Smiles; Left Hand Of Clyde (Parts 1, 2 & 3); Meet The Monster Tonight; Claude Raines Revisited; Last Business (Dub); D’empty Dance; So Below; Get A Little Turning; Intro _ Bass Beatbox; In A Perfect World; Route Of The Root; As Above; Beneath The Underground; Buzz; Taurobolium; Trance Meeting; Last Business; Divine Invasion.