Sometimes One Head is Better Than Two
Club d’Elf - Electric Moroccoland / So Below
Words By Ben Solis
World music hasn’t been this psychedelic since Indian music guru Ravi Shankar taught George Harrison, of The Beatles, how to play the sitar.
And it seems that no matter which side of the album you are listening to, the psychedelic aesthetic is exactly what Club d’Elf is going for. Sure the elements of jazz and native music take the center stage as the band, comprised of world-renowned musicians from both genres, weaves their indigenous percussive blasts around hypnotic, funky rhythms.
But d’Elf sounds very little like the stereotypical jazz or world group trying to experiment its way into a rock template, and is more akin to a rock group trying to expand their musical horizons.
Is this what we should expect from musicians of this caliber?
Well, yes. That is, if you are talking about a mutually exclusive double album, like Electric Moroccoland / So Below.
Both albums are astonishing, but they leave the listener taking sides.
On “Electric Moroccoland,” d’Elf tries to mix elements of electric-era Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock with Moroccan instruments and beats, and they do it well. Even for those who find world music completely unstimulating, the disc rocks when it needs to, and then mellows out when it knows you’ve had enough.
Yet no matter how powerful the first side may be, the second disc, titled “So Below,” is a completely different and less aggressive animal.
“So Below” does away with the North African rhythms found explicitly on “Moroccoland” and touches base on headier ground.
These changes, including contributions from DJ Logic, make “Moroccoland” more appealing. “So Below” just doesn’t rise to the expectations set up before by the first disc.
The extended jams, like “Middle Pillar” and “Instar,” are more inclined to exist on a Pink Floyd album than a world-jazz fusion album.
Give the band credit for reaching for a completely different sound on each disc. If alone, each would be an astounding achievement.
But the line has been drawn in the sand, so to speak: “Moroccoland” is the better album.