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Elevant makes stoner funk a thing

“Normal Life” injects infectious groove into their alt-rock cocktail.   |   bandcamp.com

 

Since they debuted on the scene in 2014, Liverpool, England’s Elevant has brought fresh songwriting and boisterous delivery to their brand of rock. Their basis in old-school grunge and heavy alternative make them easy to get into, but unsuspecting listeners will also catch flavors of krautrock, post-punk, stoner rock and psychedelia, with singing as raw as it is melodic. While certainly unpredictable, their sound never diverts from the mission of writing songs and succinct albums. Elevant’s stylistic musings turns to a less boisterous sound with the upcoming EP “Normal Life.” While this does make it less hard-hitting than its predecessors, it provides a compelling listen for fans and newcomers a like.

grooving more and riffing less

From the start of Hannah Lodge’s impossibly contagious “Acral Affection,” it becomes clear that Elevant has grown comfortable with grooving more and riffing less. Tom Shand’s nuanced beat completes the rhythm structure, allowing frontman Michael Edward more room to flex his creativity both vocally and in his approach to guitar. Lodge and Shand remain at the center of the song, keeping it locked firmly in place as Edward juggles oddball sounds, immense chords and synchronized hits with the rest of the band. This unwavering rhythm structure makes “Normal Life” Elevant's most accessible record to date, but not at the expense of the band’s enduring creativity.

“Slow” lives up to its name with a pacified beat and clean guitar strains that bring “Aja”-era Steely Dan to mind, which Elevant uses to lull listeners into a false sense of security before exploding into the chorus’s noisey sheets of distortion. The track provides the first real taste of the band’s Liverpool-style intensity, with its final crescendo bringing in some serious crunch.

Elevant’s ability to reshape their chosen template makes “Normal Life” the farthest thing from its namesake. “Stabs” maintains syncopation and dynamism between the trio, but dissonant vocal and guitar lines give it underlying tension that boils over with punishing rhythm, grating feedback and animalistic screaming. Even so, Elevant bring the chorus back, before a lurching decrescendo ends the song. While some may find these unexpected changes jarring, these three revel in turning a song on its head without warning.

a refreshingly somber take

“Somewhere Safe” is just that — a refreshingly somber take on what the previous tracks introduced. In this instance, Edward’s huge guitar tone bolsters the song’s modulative qualities — making soft and loud sections alike expansive in their own right. Shand and Lodge’s multifaceted rhythm exhibits its versatility, as their structure holds true in terms of flexibility and harmonic density while simultaneously accentuating the songs dynamics. The song also highlights the droning stoner and grungy morosity that sticks to Elevant’s sound like rust on metal. “Normal Life” has a lurking pessimism about it, though it fully manifests much less frequently.

The title track ends the EP with unprecedented aggression, with desert rock finding a place in its first part. Even so, the band does not entirely give itself over to ferocity. The angular riffs remain suitably approachable, although undeniably more headband worthy. Anthemic and memorable, yet pummeling and austere, the song’s final passage proves Elevant’s consistency, jumping from delicate minimalism to battering intensity while maintaining the theme that normality becomes an illusion once one looks at the intrinsic freakishness everyone harbors within. “Normal Life” might sucker people in with its more palatable style, but that ultimately serves as a different backdrop for Elevant’s insurmountable respect for the core and the fringes of rock music.

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