Sept 2011 (Vol 35, #1) Bass World Magazine Review of Electric Moroccoland/So Below By Rob Nairn
Some CD's just get stuck in your player and this new double CD from Boston's Club d'Elf is a great case in point. There is enough beautiful, soulful, fascinating, infectious material there to keep you listening for months, and then some. Bassist Mike Rivard, around whom the Club d'Elf project revolves, is something of a Boston/NY legend. I know of few musicians who work in so many disparate musical fields and these albums seem to blend so much of these influences together. Rivard has worked with a diaspora of artists as diverse as Russ Gershon and the Either/Orchestra, Mark Sandman (Morphine and Hypnosonics), Natraj, Aimee Mann, Bruce Hornsby, Jon Brion, Cab Calloway, Mighty Sam McClain, Peter Wolf, Guster, the Velvet Underground’s Mo Tucker, Paula Cole, Joe and Mat Maneri, Bob Moses, Vernon Reid, Oyie, Mamma Tongue, Jen Trynin, The Story, as well as working extensively in musical theatre.
Rivard cites Mark Sandman's gift of Hassan Hakmoun’s CD 'Gift of the Gnawa', as leading to the bassist falling in love with the sound of the Moroccan sintir, a three-stringed bass lute with a camel-skin top that Hakmoun calls “the 1,000 year-old bass”. The three-stringed deep-voiced instrument forms the foundation of ceremonies among the Gnawa, whose music blends animism and Sufism in healing rituals designed to induce trance and contact spirits.
Club d'Elf was formed in 1998 and it's music has been described as 'Moroccan-dosed dub-trance-jazz'; the trance epitaph certainly holds true for this recording, but there are a host of funk, free-jazz, hip-hop and manifold Northern African influences mixed or mashed in there. Their version of Cream's â€œSunshine Of Your Loveâ€ with the lyrics translated into Moroccan Arabic and sung by Hakmoun with a big flaming Mellotron groove is ingenious and infectious. The bonus track on the first CD, a rewrite of Mark Sandman's â€œRope on Fireâ€ is given the d'Elf treatment and is a real highlight. Where the first CD 'Electric Moroccoland' is strongly steeped in Moroccan 12/8 chaabi beats, the second 'So Below' is more electronic/psychedelic and would be at home on any dance floor. There is a myriad of cool bass grooves and the production throughout is vivid, meticulous and engaging. These two discs are simply two of the best it's been my pleasure to review for years and won't be popping out of my car CD player for a long time!