Every now and again, I have these dreams where there’s really nothing happening, no set events unraveling, and everything is swept up in a sort of fog. The dreams tend to be a little longer than usual, as I travel into the void, not even sure if my body is going with me as fascination and adventure take over, and I let my brain do the driving.
Those dreams immediately came to mind the first time I heard “Mænad,” the debut record from Swiss trio E-L-R. Their songs are more soundscapes than anything, as they conjure smoke and illusions as their music washes its way over you. The six tracks here, only one clocking in at less than six minutes, are vessels for your exploration. This weekend, I was driving home late at night on the highway, and I turned to this record because I needed something to keep me stimulated but I didn’t want to be bludgeoned necessarily. Not that there aren’t heavy moments here, because there are plenty, but that’s not the entire point of this album. The band—bassist/vocalist I.R., guitarist/vocalist S.M., drummer M.K.—weaves in their interpretation of artistic works as well as their own emotions and everyday happenings in their lives, which makes this record a pretty diverse collection of senses. The vocals themselves are buried beneath the waters, so they don’t make themselves terribly apparent, but they’re just here to play a certain role in the DNA of these compositions.
“Glancing Limbs” starts as sounds drone and build, footsteps crunch, and the music operates within a mist that coats your face. Drums start to drive as the guitars rain down, with silver streaks of doom swimming through, letting clean calls flicker through the environment. The track then hammers away as calls drive over the pounding pace, letting gazey gloom drizzle over the finish. “Devotee” is gloomy when it opens before the playing starts striking, sanding the surface as ghostly vocals echo. A power surge arrives and pushes through while melodic vocals entangle with bubbling guitars that threaten safety. That works into a calm storm, as rain falls down while fires crackle. “Above The Mountains There Is Light” starts with noises reverberating as the guitars open up, and the basin begins to flood. The track lurks into shadows as the vocals spill in, as hushed tones then meets up with an explosion of might. Strong singing sinks in its teeth while another burst moves in, blasting and charging before fading out.
“Ambrosia” starts as a bruiser as it’s heavy and dank, with the shadows dropping mightily. The vocals bleed all over with some of the most forceful singing yet on the record as heads are crushed, and wills are challenged. All of that builds to a final cascade of noise that has sparks showering the ground. “Lunar Nights” opens by driving calmly but assuredly, as speaking is sprinkled over the build before a gazey detonation illuminates everything. The track churns and burns, unleashing fire before a sense of serenity takes over, and easier voices soothe. That’s before the earth’s crust is ruptured anew, sending emotions and tiny bits of your heart hurtling toward the sun. “The Wild Shore” ends the album by gently entering the room, taking account of everything lingering in the atmosphere before a volcanic charge tears things apart. The song goes back and forth between dreamy sequences and ashen doom, toppling psyches and later treating wounds. Once the chaos settles, sticks are tapped, water laps the shore, and you awaken to reality, again aware of your mind and body.
E-L-R are one of those revelatory bands that come along, seemingly from out of nowhere, and make an indelible mark on your psyche. “Mænad” is the perfect companion to my strange dreams, as their work would sound ideal as my brain is streaming through bizarre atmospheres on my way to no set destination. This is not going to leave your body bruised and bloody, but it will challenge you mentally and spiritually, which sometimes is an even larger mountain to climb.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/bandELR/
To buy the album, go here (U.S.): https://us.prophecy.de/prophecy-prophecy-1/e-l-r-maenad.html
Or here (International): https://en.prophecy.de/artists/e-l-r/e-l-r-maenad.html
For more on the label, go here: https://en.prophecy.de/