6

Club d'Elf: Live at Club Helsinki

Chris M. Slawecki By

Sign in to view read count
Club d'Elf and their sprawling live records present a unique challenge to folks who write about them. This double Live at Club Helsinki set reveals every modern style and multiple Moroccan rhythms (except for opera and bluegrass—maybe). But often we want so much to relate or explain these sounds, and there's so much going on in so many different combinations, that our explanations eventually grow so complicated that they lose their soul. Soulless is no way to address this music.

The other challenge reads like a cop-out but it's nonetheless true: These cats aren't just musicians, they're magicians. Good luck explaining magic.

(Very) Loosely directed by drummer Dean Johnston and bassist Mike Rivard (who also has roots in the Boston Pops Orchestra, Either/Orchestra, and Morphine), Helsinki very much suggests Club d'Elf's version of the Grateful Dead's legendary live opus Europe '72> (Warner Bros.): It spotlights remarkable, genre-bending solos by Rivard (including sintir), John Medeski (piano, keyboards), Duke Levine (guitar), Brahim Fribgane (oud, one of the world's oldest stringed instruments) and DJ Mister Rourke—but never, ever at the expense of the band's collective dense, hypnotic grooves.

One disc one, Rivard lays down the melody of "Mogador" then hands it over to Medeski, whose solo on grand piano—a McCoy Tyner meets Michael Garson jazz-rock fusion tempest—is genuinely grand. Next comes a trip through the landscape of "Africa," which Levine's guitar colors in country-western twang. Fribgane picks up a South American cajón to steer the band through the Moroccan 12/8 groove "The Booloolu," and this first set concludes with d'Elf's trademark "Berber Song," a traditional from North-West Africa whipped into an electronic frenzy.

On disc two, "Green Screen" upshifts and downshifts through Levine's crashing chords and concludes with a good ol' four on the floor psychedelic funk stomp—Buddy Miles introducing the Beastie Boys to Jimi Hendrix.

"Zeed Al Maal" sounds like the Jerry Garcia Band happily meandering through a Moroccan desert and enjoying the trip. Rivard learned this song from a revered leader of the Gwana mystical brotherhood of trance- healers, and shares it on the Moroccan sintir (camel skin-covered bass lute) as a freedom jazz dance with Thomas Workman's flute. Levine's guitar sounds like it wobbles into the thick trip-hop of "Power Plant" from an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, then Medeski jumps in on organ to swing Booker T. Jones soul chords up into the stars.

Live at Club Helsinki closes with a spoken sample from one of the band's inspirations, Terence McKenna, which also sums up Club d'Elf's purpose, vision and music: "There is a hidden dimension to reality. Call it a plan, a purpose, a loving god, a cosmos instead of a chaos. And psychedelics, I believe, reveal a greater order than the normal world."

Track Listing: Disc 1: Mogador, Africa, The Booloolu, Hegaz, Secret Atom, Berber Song. Disc 2: Al- Hadra; Zeed Al Maal; Power Plant; Salvia; Green Screen; Sidi Rabi.

Personnel: Mike Rivard: bass, sinter, bass kalimba; Dean Johnston: drums; John Medeski: B3, piano, electric piano, clavinet, mellotron, melodica; . Brahim Fribgane: oud, percussion, voice; Mister Rourke: DJ; Duke Levine: guitar; Thomas Workman: flute (Disc 2: 1, 2).

Title: Live at Club Helsinki | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Face Pelt Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Walk Against Wind" CD/LP/Track Review Walk Against Wind
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Snowmelt" CD/LP/Track Review Snowmelt
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 6, 2017
Read "Sunset" CD/LP/Track Review Sunset
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 9, 2017
Read "Copenhagen Live 1964" CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 30, 2017
Read "Possessed" CD/LP/Track Review Possessed
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 2, 2017
Read "A Night Walking Through Mirrors" CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 20, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.