Elephant9 Psychedelic Backfire: Volumes I and II

Elephant9 Psychedelic Backfire: Volumes I and II
Recorded live earlier this year, the two volumes of Elephant9's Psychedelic Backfire show them in full flight, an almost unstoppable train of energy — at least when they get rolling.
The trio of St åle Storløkken (keyboards), Nikolai Hængsle (bass) and Torstein Lofthus (drums) have been together since 2006, and their experience shines here. The interplay between them is almost magnetic: Lofthus's propulsive drumming pushes Storløkken's leads forward, while Hængsle's bass keeps things anchored. They stretch out songs, building things up slowly over ten minutes, but shift keys and tempos on a dime.
That said, the way they build things up is also the record's weak spot. On both sets, they occasionally seem locked between gears. For example, Volume I's "Habanera Rocket" takes a good six minutes to build up a head of steam; "I Cover the Mountain Top" takes maybe five — and it's the opening track. It can be trying for less patient listeners.
Other times, however, the group rips out of the gate: "Actionpack1" kicks off with a driving rhythm, Storløkken going nuts on his synth leads and Hængsle playing all over his kit. On the second volume, guitarist Reine Fiske joins them, fitting in seamlessly: the power and energy they work up on "Skink/Fugl Fønix" could power a train.
Despite some slow spots, the two volumes of Psychedelic Backfire show Elephant9 as an engaging and exciting live act, a dazzling mix of rock rhythms and jazzy interplay. (Rune Grammofon)