Club d’Elf ‘Night Sparkles Live’ (Face Pelt) 4/5

Club d’Elf are a collective rather than a group and have a potential personnel list numbering into the hundreds. There has been a few studio based albums but it appears their strength is performing live and as such, releases like the one reviewed here are more successful. Night Sparkles (Live) is a recording of a show from 2011 with electric guitar, synths, various percussion instruments and the occasional bits of melodica. With this version of Club d’Elf, there is cohesion between the musicians, mainly built on the rock solid and ever-present rhythm section. Some of their other albums have heavily featured Moroccan influences. Here, those influences are pretty much reined in and although there’s still a variety (including other African) of styles on offer, nearly all the pieces are essentially heavy fusion groove jams with the rhythm section progressively ramping up the intensity. I guess the musical style will vary based on who turns up to play!

Although, there is a track listing, all the tracks flow from one to another, giving the listener the impression of one semi-improvisational piece with various movements within.

The opening tracks, End Of Firpo Parts 1 and 2, are a sort of statement of intent as it incorporates a handful of different styles. It starts off with the bass riff, the motif for these tracks, a slow build reminiscent of Miles’ Bitches Brew era. However, after a few minutes, the drumming suddenly escalates towards drum and bass and even the bass sound goes a bit wubwub! Part 2 returns to the bass line where part 1 starts from, this time bringing in a dub feel which drops out and then culminates with a return to the motif. As you can probably tell from the above description, the change of styles on these tracks are pretty abrupt. On the first few listens, this fires the interest but later I started to find some of the changes a little jarring.

Next up is the dubby Dance of the Machine Elves. It is a percussion fest which concludes with a blissful hypnotic section which flows into the title track. Here, the collective hits top gear. Built on a heavy repetitive driving rhythm pushing the track through to a noisy climax with a wah solo. The track lasts about ten minutes or so but really this jam could go on and on.

For Ecstatic Cling Parts 1 and 2, while the bass is insistent, the drums cool down, allowing more room for chanting and the quieter instruments to shine. This provides a much-needed contrast to the exciting, energetic finale. It’s my favourite tune.

Club d’Elf definitely prescribe to the concept that more is more. They wouldn’t be afraid of including the kitchen sink in here! I have to say, listening to this music as a recording rather than assessing as an in-the-moment live performance, I would have preferred to have a little more relief from the almost relentless heavy groove. Only Dance of the Machine Elves and Ecstatic Cling Part 2 really satisfy in that respect. On the whole though, I find their exploration of merging musical ideas joyous and if you appreciate that sense of adventure, I think you’ll find there’s a lot here for you to enjoy too.

Kevin Ward

Read also: Club d’Elf ‘Live at Club Helsinki’ (Face Pelt) 4/5