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Elvish Presley - Black Elf Speaks

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Artist: Elvish Presley

Album: Black Elf Speaks

Label: Bulb

Review date: Mar. 2, 2004

“The legend of Elvish Presley began in Michigan...where the last of the dying race of elves intermarried with human folk. There grew a tender sapling of a boy named Thomas Blunderbuck.”

So begins the story of Elvish Presley. And although the legend began in Michigan, the story picks up speed in the small college town of Charlottesville, Virginia. If there ever was a legitimate scene created from the ground up, the Pudhouse was it; the nondescript house on Goodman Street gave birth to two sonic ogres: Elvish Presley and The USAISAMONSTER.

Tom Hohmann splits his time as the leader of Elvish Presley and one-half of the MONSTER. The aspect of Elvish Presley that sets them apart is the slightly demented mixture of Dungeons & Dragons geekdom and sludge. Dark, minor chord psych, brought to you first by the likes of the Yardbirds and Michael Yonkers, is clearly the specialty of Black Elf Speaks, with a propensity for grime that was not as present in the ’60s. Lines like "we drink mushroom tea and we drink our own pee and hallucinate...” and “Keep on smokin’, J.R.R. Tolkien” are spattered throughout the album.

Black Elf can be divided into two or three movements. The first three tracks bring the fury one would expect from a Bulb release. Epic stories of mythical landscapes bubble up from the psychedelic tarpit, written in a magical and rapidly disappearing Elven language. “Creation Story”, the albums first cut, is one of the strongest, and primes the listener for what follows. The vocals are belted out by what sounds like a pair of heavily sedated Gregorian monks. Either singing in octaves or in unison, you halfway expect them to chant an “amen” at the end of some of their phrases.

The album frees itself from the mud and takes a subdued turn after the first three tracks giving way to a clear reverence for The Godz. Sometimes the playful sound of the Incredible String Band can be heard as well. Although never as esoteric as the Godz, Elvish Presley has no problem letting their “freak flag fly.”

The finale “Land of the Tree” is pleasantly out-of-place on Black Elf, returning to the grime of the first section, along with the most intense percussion on the album. Some could even compare this song to Chairs Missing-era Wire. Two secret tracks are worth waiting for, the second bringing back the spirit of the Godz, but with an urban flair.

Overall, Black Elf Speaks brings to mind a hazy atmosphere, with amazing and seemingly lost-and-found bass ostinatos from the bygone psych-era. Folks who are constantly on the look out for that lost psych gem should take notice of this revitalized, “dropped out” sound that’s happening right now.

By Jacob Daneman

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