With a now sixteen album lineage of psychedelic pop music spanning nearly twenty-five years, Athens’ Elf Power have established themselves as elder statesmen of the incredibly influential and prolific Elephant 6 recording collective. Although the collective’s members (of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Olivia Tremor Control, most notably) perform and release music at varying degrees of frequency, Elf Power remains one of the most dependable and communally active outfits of the bunch. By extension, their latest release, Twitching In Time, fits that same mold. It’s a record that doesn’t break much new ground with its equally divided forays into meditative folk ballads, driving power pop numbers and low key psychedelic experiences, but it’s a pleasantly consistent listen that nonetheless beckons for deeper listening.
Opening track “Halloween Out Walking” possesses an appropriately haunting quality with its arpeggiated acoustic guitar and lead singer Andrew Rieger’s cryptic, sage-like metaphors. Similarly, the pensive, piano-led third track, “Watery Shreds”, are really the album’s only explicitly somber takeaways (though others obviously have their moments), lending the album a sophisticatedly playful tone. The fuzzed out “Sniper In the Balcony” and driving title track further that tone and serve as standout exceptions amid a field of mid-tempo tunes characterized by relative containment. Scattered throughout the album, the latter seem to reach minor peaks, but their anticipated climaxes are often capped by reservation, never quite reaching the sonic pinnacle one might expect or hope for.
Still, there are nuggets granting instant gratification like the bittersweet “All Things Combined”, ostensibly a rumination on aging that simplifies Rieger’s more labyrinthine turns of phrase, balancing them with concrete images of “a broke down car” in the driveway and “an empty jar” on the table. Its one of the most striking songs on Twitching In Time, serving as a centerpiece of sorts; despite the topic’s often somber characterization, there’s a sense of sublime acceptance as Reiger reflects and intones “I’m in the car, I’m driving home/I like to see the world alone.” And to cap it all off, closer “Gorging On the Feast”, which vaguely sounds like a meandering update of Pink Floyd’s “Time” with its intermittent sonic explosions, stands as an aural reward rather than a bookend.
Compared to previous Elf Power albums, there’s a greater sense of clarity to these compositions and their delivery. Rieger’s crisp vocals and his plaintive, poetic lyrics aren’t newfound characteristics of the Elf Power brand, but they’re paired here with relatively toned down arrangements indicative of a band this far along into their career. However one might feel about a band dwelling in their comfort zone, Twitching In Time is still a solid, inoffensive addition to a lengthy catalog, sheltering a few gems from the careerist storm.
Keep up with the band here.