May 13, 2011 Jam Forums Concert Review Club d'Elf w/ John Medeski @ Club Helsinki, Hudson 4/9/11 By Jeff Nania
Club d'Elf's CD release party at Club Helsinki this past Saturday night was a great success. The table seating that makes up the top two levels of the amphitheater style club was completely full, and fans crowded the dance floor.
The group was joined by MMW alum John Medeski on keyboards, and was filled out by the core group of Mike Rivard on basses, Brahim Fribgane on Oud, vocals, and percussion, Mister Rourke on turntables, and Dean Johnston on drums.
The instrumentation varied greatly with Rivard playing four different basses including one called the sintir which was of Moroccan origin and was a kind of combination bass/hand drum. He also played an electric upright bass which looks like the skeleton of a normal jazz upright, and a bass kalimba, or finger piano which is featured on their tune â€œPropeller.â€
Brahim Fribgane's talents served to really define the sound of the group. His use of the oud cut right through the top of the sonic texture with it's guitar-like, but decidedly more metallic sound. When Fribgane took to playing the cajon (a percussion instrument that you sit on and hit the front of with your hands to create a kind of reverberated snare drum sound), or the dumbek (which is a hand drum that sounds somewhat like the indian tabla drum, and is sometimes referred to as an egyptian tabla) he was able to interlace his rhythms with Johnston's on the drum set to create unbreakable polyrhythms that both moved and supported the group.
John Medeski made good on his tradition of using â€œrealâ€ keyboard instruments. There were no synthesizers in his arsenal. He played a Fender Rhodes electric piano, a Hammond B3 organ complete with Leslie speaker, and a Hohner Clavinet. All three of these keyboard instruments produce sound through real mechanical processes that are then electronically amplified.
The music was a swirling blend of Moroccan, and middle eastern sounds with funk, jazz, hip hop, and electronic styles mixed in.
Club Helsinki itself is a Civil War era specimen that has seen many uses over the years including that of winery, Jeep dealership, and now live music venue. The building featured load bearing brick walls, a steel reinforced structure, and certain unique features like paper lantern style lighting, and upside down lampposts that were used as structural support with the tops cut off and hung upside down as house lighting.
Club d'Elf's newest release is a double album, and is the first to be released on the group's own label â€œFace Pelt.â€ The two discs are called â€œElectric Moroccoland,â€ (which delves into decidedly more culturally diverse sounds – especially moroccan arabic traditions) and â€œSo Belowâ€ (which takes psychedelic, dub, electronic, and hip hop sounds to new highs). The set was on sale for $16 which is not much considering the sheer amount, and quality of music – 25 songs, and over two and a half hours of music. What's more, the two discs represent the culmination of over 11 years, and 12 studios.