Elephant Stone is a lo-fi troupe out of Montreal, a Canadian city six hours north of the Big Apple by car and planted pretty much squatly on its line of longitude. Now, this might seem like a random bit of meaningless trivia, but interestingly, listening to their distinctly concise and gorgeously textural new LP, you’re probably near-sighted to miss a Velvet Underground influence as well I think as hints of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who’ve had roughly the lifespan of these guys and similarly call New York their digs.
Freed from the shackles of his old band The High Dials, an act that got its start in ’03 right around the same time as fellow Montreal natives and indie heavyweights Wolf Parade, Rishi Dhir assembled Elephant Stone (which might be a reference to the fantastic Stone Roses b-side) in ’09 and has been spinning webs of melodic, texturally rich indie rock during the time since. The freshness and eclectic attributes of these songs are utterly undeniable, with Dhir and company avoiding the trap of Britpop rehash staleness with ample, multitudinous creative flairs permeating their LP’s, with Hollow no exception.
In the latter’s case, whereas Dhir produced the album himself and even released it on his own label Elephants on Parade, it’s still far from a narcissistic voyage (sorry to rag on Fiona Apple as a counterexample again but she sure is an easy target), as the band peppers bongo, sitar and piano elements among others all throughout toward a largely unique listening experience. The way the record is mixed, too, nicely accentuates the sonic eccentricities, with Dhir’s voice noticeable and distinct but also buried innocuously within the other instruments, so as not to disrupt the overall musical panorama. And all in all, it’s one of those records that seems not to feature a single mundane sound, right down to the grainy, jagged synth that opens the LP, and Dhir’s own pastel, melodically exact vocal croon.
Another way Hollow brings the tension and electricity is by keeping things off-beat as far as structure goes, as one-minute second track “Darker Time, Darker Space” will diagram. Other highlights include “Keep the Light Alive” and its ephemeral blip of Eric Clapton-like guitar wailing and “I See You,” a relatively upbeat number with a verbose intro on the Moog synth and some polymorphous and rad drumming from Miles Dupire. Ultimately, Hollow rolls out of the speakers with complete ease and fluidity as a strong front-to-back listen, an approachable society of professionally rendered indie rock on which, perhaps amazingly, the primary mastermind actually shares the spotlight and commissions a bona fide, nuanced group effort.