Club d'Elf - Electric Moroccoland / So Below - out on Face Pelt Records
Club d'Elf - Electric Moroccoland / So Below
(2CD/Download) Face Pelt Records, 2011-04-05
Club d'Elf's long-awaited studio follow-up to Now I Understand (2006). A double-disc set, Electric Moroccoland/So Below represents two distinct sides of the groups sound: Moroccan trance (Electric Moroccoland) and funky electronica/DJ-driven beats (So Below). More than 10 years in the making, it features over 26 musicians including John Medeski, DJ Logic, Dana Colley & the late Mark Sandman of Morphine (in some of his last recorded performances), Dave Tronzo, Brahim Fribgane, and Hassan Hakmoun singing a Gnawa-ified version of Cream's Sunshine Of Your Love. 22 tracks worth of music for a playing time of over 145 minutes.
Club d'Elf - Electric Moroccoland / So Below
(2CD/Download) Face Pelt Records, 2011-04-05
Club d'Elf Sand (for Mark) by salemjazzsoul
Club d'Elf Bendir Done That by salemjazzsoul
Tracklisting Electric Moroccoland :
01. Overture 2:14
02. Sand 5:44
03. Ghir Khoudouni 7:08
04. Madrecita 6:44
05. Sunshine Of Your Love 5:45
06. Scorpionic 8:44
07. Mogador 5:15
08. Bendir Done That 3:25
09. Berber Song 5:40
10. Sidi Rabi 7:38
11. Ambib 5:08
12. Instar 5:40
13. Bonus Track: Rope On Fire 5:48
So Below Medley by Club d'Elf
Tracklisting So Below :
01. Gettin' Squinty 5:20
02. Middle Pillar 7:51
03. So Below 11:06
04. Salvia 6:52
05. I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down 7:04
06. Trance Meeting Pt. 1 6:22
07. Trance Meeting Pt. 2 2:37
08. As Above 5:35
09. End of Firpo 7:37
10. Pharaoh 7:41
11. Bonus Track: Propeller 4:47
12. Bonus Track: Taint Too 4:22
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Press Release :
Deep Trancing : The Hypnotic Grooves, Camel-Skin Bass, and Unifying Spirit of Club d'Elf
Morocco, the country that had fired his musical imagination for more than a decade: In a strikingly vivid dream, he felt himself swimming upwards in the air as fantastic landscapes, mountains, and tiled buildings stretched out beneath him.
The band - a rotating group of players drawn from a pool that includes keyboardist John Medeski, DJ Logic, David Bowie's guitarists or any number of Moroccan musical icons - swims in the same dreamlike atmosphere, both live - Club d'Elf tours New England this April - and on their new double album Electric Moroccoland / So Below (Face Pelt; April 5, 2011).
Club d'Elf grabs the elusive subtleties of North African rhythms and puts them through their edgy paces on Electric Moroccoland, the first disc of their new two-CD set. Here, the group is influenced by Morocco's rich musical heritage and Rivard's dedication to the three-stringed, camel-skinned, bass-like sintir. On the second disc, So Below, Rivard and company de- and reconstruct musical forms from funk and dub to free jazz, creating an anything-goes exploration that holds true to the spirit of trance and the affinity that connects Club D'Elf's diverse players and their varying styles.
"The crux of Moroccan music is trance," Rivard explains. "Trance as a quality in music has always attracted me, whether it's an extended James Brown cut, or something by Fela or Steve Reich. I've always sought out music that allows you to forget where and who you are and to break free from the mind's constant chatter."
Rivard's fascination with Moroccan, and specifically Gnawan music, began thanks to a fellow traveler in trance, the late Mark Sandman of the legendary indie rock band Morphine. One night, Sandman threw on a CD by Hassan Hakmoun, Gnawa musician extraordinaire. After begging to borrow the album, Rivard went home and listened to it over and over again. "I never returned it, and that was something that Mark always grumbled about," Rivard laughs. "I played it constantly, and it became the soundtrack for my life. That's when I dedicated myself to playing sintir."
The three-stringed deep-voiced instrument forms the foundation of ceremonies among the Gnawa, whose ancestors came as slaves from sub-Saharan Africa 500 years ago. Their music blends animism and Sufism in rituals designed to induce trance, to contact spirits, and to heal. Rivard began learning to play the instrument on his own, practicing long hours with recordings and trying out rock riffs to see what worked. He also began taking cues from Moroccan musician friends like oud (Arabic lute) player and percussionist Brahim Fribgane, who introduced him to Moroccan émigrés in the Boston area, a community of expats who provided encouragement and inspiration for Rivard during late-night hangs in the basement of a Moroccan store.
Eventually, Rivard's fascination with the instrument led him to the Moroccan coastal city of Essaouira, where he spent time in the home of one of the great Gnawan malaams (a master of ceremonies and master musician). It was there that he began to grasp just how intense and complex sintir technique could be. "It's amazing what you can do on an instrument with only three strings and a one-octave range. But in the hands of someone like Malaam Mahmoud Guinea, the sintir has infinite possibilities that go beyond the physical act of playing. He uses the instrument as a device to connect with the spirit world. It's both powerful and humbling."
Rivard uncovered a whole soundscape of subtleties as he became more and more deeply attuned to Moroccan music. One challenge came as Rivard tried to unpack the rhythmic pattern of the chaabi, a beat in 12/8 with a mysteriously elusive "one." "Brahim and I used to take long car trips together and listen to North African cassettes," Rivard recalls. "I'd clap along with him, but then I'd move to the wrong beat and he'd shake his head no. I had to train myself to hear the ‘one' in the right spot, to really feel how the upbeats and accents worked. Once I got it, it felt like I was initiated into a secret society."
These details add a richness and depth to Club D'Elf's music and bring Moroccan sensibilities into unlikely places. Rivard wanted to do a tribute to Sandman, who passed away in 1999, so he and Club D'Elf covered Morphine's "Rope on Fire" - adding a chaabi beat, electric oud, and a sinuous bass line, propelling Sandman's hypnotic tune.
Unlikely Moroccan influences struck again when Rivard was improvising at a remote Maine cabin, and a riff from Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" kept sneaking into his sintir line. The song also fit the chaabi, and while it worked as an instrumental, Rivard dreamed of adding vocals. He had a Berber scholar friend translate the lyrics and got friend and frequent Club D'Elf contributor Hassan Hakmoun to sing them. Rivard explains, "Hassan really got into it and added his own extemporaneous touches while Medeski rocked the mellotron," an analogue keyboard big with prog rock bands like King Crimson and Yes.
While Club D'Elf pays homage to several other musical greats, including Morocco's version of Louis Armstrong, Haj Belaid (on "Ambib") and Nass El Ghiwane ("Ghir Khoudouni"), Rivard and company gain most of their musical insights through improvisatory juxtaposition. "We mine contradictions; combining things that don't necessarily go together. To that end, we'll mash up free jazz saxophonist Joe Maneri with rock guitarist Reeves Gabrels [ex-David Bowie]. Or Moroccan strings, Indian tabla, and turntables," Rivard reflects.
What brings all the disparate, dynamic elements together is the magnetism of trance, a power that cuts across cultures. Along with musical mixtures, Rivard has drawn on diverse approaches to trance, and was as inspired by the thoughts of psychedelic explorer Terence McKenna (whose voice is woven into "Trance Meeting") in both shaping Club d'Elf and naming the band (McKenna communed with "elf-like entities" on some of his travels).
For tracks like "As Above," he brought together master Ghanaian drummer Dolsi-naa Abubakari Lunna with DJ Logic, creating a fusion of ancient rhythms with modern turntablism, enhanced with a rousing piano part by John Medeski, played on a battered upright in his Brooklyn studio. On "So Below," Rivard took some of Sandman's last recordings and carved out a trancey core from layer upon layer of takes, tracks, and musical input from a dozen musicians.
The results, like the band's live performances, draw listeners in through repetition, atmospherics, and a solid rhythm section meant to fill the dance floor. The songs also hint at the power of trance to do more than just mesmerize the listener, but also to transcend barriers. Much of the new Club d'Elf music developed during rehearsals at drummer Erik Kerr's Christian church, where Brahim would break into rousing praise of Allah. Yet no one batted an eye.
"Our music is about surrender and giving in to something more powerful than one's self, and as corny as it sounds, really feeling love for your brothers," reflects Rivard. "It amazed me at how open Erik could be to a different faith, and likewise for Brahim. Certainly life is a lot more complicated than the simple ways of us musicians, but if our little musical brotherhood can embrace different beliefs and cultures, then maybe it's possible for such cooperation to exist in society at large."
Club d'Elf - Mogador. Edited by Toshi Hoo.
Bio - More About Club d'Elf :
Club d'Elf's music has been called "Moroccan-dosed dub-trance-jazz", and draws upon electronica, Moroccan Gnawa music, dub, free jazz, hip-hop & funk to create a heady, danceable mix. The band convened for the first time in 1998, spearheaded and fronted by bassist/composer Mike Rivard, a busy session player who has recorded & performed with Morphine, Jon Brion, Aimee Mann, G Love & Jonatha Brooke, amongst others. Rivard drew from the players in the myriad of bands he worked with to fill out the ranks of D'Elf, creating an incredibly diverse rotating cast. Formed around a core rhythm section with the addition of different special guests for each show, the idea was to remix Rivard's groove-based compositions differently for each performance. Guests over the years have included John Medeski & Billy Martin (MMW), DJ Logic, Marc Ribot, Skerik, and Marco Benevento (Benevento / Russo Duo), with jambands.com describing the situation thusly: "Club d'Elf consists of Mike Rivard and any cohorts who decide to embark with him into perilous sonic chimeras."
The band enjoys exploring mash-ups of the diverse musical universes they travel, where a Squarepusher-styled drum'n'bass groove may give way to a traditional North Indian tabla interlude, in turn dissolving into some Miles "Live Evil" type electric mayhem. Over the past few years (under the tutelage of member Brahim Fribgane, who hails from Casablanca) the band has been absorbing Moroccan trance influences and frequently adding this element to the live mix, showcasing Fribgane's mesmerizing oud stylings and Rivard's commanding playing of the Moroccan sintir, a 3 string bass lute used by the Gnawa people, a mystical Sufi brotherhood descended from sub-Saharan slaves brought to Morocco over 500 years ago.
Over the course of it's 13 year history the band has has held a residency at Cambridge's Lizard Lounge, and while visits out of the Northeast have been rare, D'Elf has found a large audience in Japan and toured there five times, most recently in December '10 w/ Medeski as special guest, where the band played to enthusiastic, sold-out rooms. A predominantly Muslim audience embraced the band's take on Moroccan folk music at the 2007 edition of the Festvial Du Monde de Arabe in Montreal, where they performed songs by beloved Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane and Berber musician Haj Belaid.
Finding it's true element to be live performance, where the band revels in musical tight-rope walking and improvisational daring-do, D'Elf has released 7 live double-CDs on the Kufala label. In 2006 D'Elf released it's first studio disc, Now I Understand, which climbed to 7 on the CMJ Jazz chart and garnered rave reviews. On April 5, 2011 the band's long-awaited studio follow-up will hit the street. A double-disc set, entitled Electric Moroccoland/So Below, it represents two distinct sides of the groups sound: Moroccan trance and funky electronica/DJ-driven beats, and features over 26 musicians including Medeski, DJ Logic, the late Mark Sandman of Morphine (in some of his last recorded performances), and Hassan Hakmoun singing a Gnawa-ified version of Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love". The band will tour the Northeast in April to promote the album.
- Best Jazz Act, Boston Music Awards, 2007
- Best Jazz Act, Best of Boston, Boston Magazine, 2004
- Phoenix Editors and Readers Poll, 2001
- Best Jam Band, Phoenix Editors and Readers Poll, 2001
- Best DJ/Electronica Act, FNX Best Music Poll, 2001
- Best Cutting Edge Band, Best of Boston, Boston Magazine, 1998
As Above: Live at the Lizard Lounge (2000, Grapeshot/Live Archive)
Live - Vassar Chapel 02/26/2001 (2004, Kufala Recordings)
Live - Athens, GA 03/28/2002 (2004, Kufala Recordings)
Live - NYC 04/20/2000 (2004, Kufala Recordings)
Live: Tonic, NYC 5/26/2004 (2005, Kufala Recordings)
Gravity All Nonsense Now: Live at Lizard Lounge, 5/08/03 (2005, Kufala Recordings)
100 Years of Flight: Live at the Lizard Lounge 12.18.03 (2005, Kufala Recordings)
Now I Understand (2006, Accurate/Hi-N-Dry)
Perhapsody Live: 10.12.06 (2007, Kufala Recordings)
Electric Moroccoland/So Below (2011, Face Pelt Records)