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(40:15; Karisma Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Wide Awake But Still Asleep 8:05 2. H.M.S: Death, Rattle and Roll 4:11 3. Steely Dan 3:56 4. Ease of Mind 3:24 5. Magnets 3:56 6. Traveller 11:28 7. Strange Illusions 5:15 LINEUP: Eirik Sejersted Vognstolen - vocals, guitars Jard Hole - drums, percussion Ole-Andreas Saebo Jensen - bass, guitars Jonas Saersten - keyboards, guitars
Prolusion. Norwegian band SHAMAN ELEPHANT have been around since 2015 and thereabouts, and was signed to Norwegian label Karsisma Records for their debut album "Crystals" the following year. The band have stayed on with the label, and this year they returned with their second studio album "Wide Awake But Still Asleep".
Analysis. There are many aspects of the music of Shaman Elephant that are striking. That their overall sound appears to be distinctly retro-oriented is one noticeable straight away, and much the same can be said for their apparent affection for the harder side of psychedelic rock. Still, there is a bit more to this band than being merely a retro-oriented psychedelic rock band, even if those associations will dominate most first impressions with this album. For progressive rock fans, a point of interest will be that this is a band that ebb and flow, shift and turn and generally follows a game plan of the kind you'd expect to have to read a compendium to understand and keep track of. While the compositions probably aren't as challenging as you'll first think, there's certainly more than enough of these tendencies around to safely merit a description as a progressive rock band, and not of the most accessible ones at that. What makes this album sound a tad complicated on initial listen is how the band add and subtract instruments and effects as well as how they change the dominance of these, going from busy, majestic arrangements to sparse, almost solemn territories at the snap of a finger, without changing all that many elements. At least for someone who isn't a musician this can be at times impressive to listen to. The band is also skilled in building their material, perhaps most prominently showcased on the longer songs on this production. A certain affection for many different types of keyboards is a feature throughout, and what sounds very much like an electric piano is the one that I believe is the one given most playtime, with various Mellotron sounds also given liberal amounts of time to flavor the different landscapes. While there are several gentler passages spread throughout this album, my impression is that Shaman Elephant enjoy most to operate out from a hard psychedelic progressive foundation, with a driving booming or pounding bass line as something of an engine for many of the key passages. Twisted guitar sounds as effects and undercurrents is a thing throughout as well, as are most sounds you will associate with psychedelic. The drums, the piano and occasionally the bass also adds some flavoring and expansion by way of more jazz-oriented details here and there. On occasion the band will focus more on a harder and driving arrangement, coming across as perhaps a more retro-oriented version of fellow Norwegians Motorpsycho on occasion. Cue the second half of the epic length song 'Traveller' as a possible example of just that. In sum I'd say that Shaman Elephant as of 2020 is almost something of a genre-defying band in some ways, operating out from a foundation based in retro-oriented hard psychedelic rock but exploring it in a more contemporary context and a more modern manner. And they are executing this in a solid manner. As far as I can tell there isn't a weak point to be found on this production, and I suspect many will be blown away if this will be their first encounter with this band. A slight side note from me is that this is a band I think would be a perfect addition to the artists contributing to the various projects of UK specialist label Fruits de Mer Records, and I do hope the band and that labels gets in touch with each other at some point - if they haven't already.
Conclusion. Retro-oriented hard, psychedelic progressive rock is what Shaman Elephant provides on "Wide Awake But Still Asleep", and a variety of this kind of music that is arguably explored in a more modern and contemporary manner. A band that should appeal to those who love and treasure this kind of music as it was made way back when, but also a band that should find fans among those who listen to newer bands such as Motorpsycho - the latter also name-dropped by Shaman Elephant themselves on their Facebook page.
Progmessor: June 2020
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