LIVE: Club d’Elf @ Club Helsinki, 10/15/11

Club d’Elf is the perfect group for Club Helsinki. Their particular brand of artful Moroccan-infused trance music fits in with the artsy feel of the club. The décor, the bar, the tables, the dance floor, the music and the food are all reflections of this.

Last time they came through town, they had DJ Mr. Rourke with them, but this time they went without the DJ in favor of guitarist Randy Roos and percussionist Matt Kilmer. The addition of another percussionist allowed for extended jams that featured Mike Rivard on the Sintir (a three string morroccan bass lute) as the only melodic instrument and also the drum work of Dean Johnston with Brahim Fribgane on cajon and Kilmer on percussion.

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Keyboardist John Medeski’s instrumentation was slightly different this time, as well. He had the usual Hammond B3 and Hohner clavinet, but also sported a small reed organ and a Korg SV-1, which is unusual for him because it is not a mechanical/electric instrument.

The group played a number of recognizable tunes off of their recent album “Electric Moroccoland,” like their incredible set-ending version of “Berber Song.” Toward the end of this one, Rivard addressed the crowd as there was a couple dancing in front of the stage, and he said, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone slow dancing to our stuff before.”

Roos really added an avant garde jazz feel to the group as if Medeski wasn’t enough to give it that edge.

One of the best things about Club d’Elf’s style of jamming is that there are virtually no pauses between pieces. Things just generally morph rather than stop and start. And then there are the layers. The players do not pass solos around like in jazz, and they also do not just create a mesh of everyone soloing together which is so common with jam bands like the Dead. Instead, it is like a group meditation in which energy is accumulated and each individual layer is added as the group reaches each successive plateau. Rivard would be thumping along with the percussionists, and Medeski would be sitting there patiently waiting for the tipping point that would allow his organ to slide in and sing over top.

Aside from the organic grooves that they are so well known for, Club d’Elf also has a heavily electronic side. The group slid into an improvisation that featured Rivard on a goopy-sounding electric bass. Medeski took to the SV-1 and banged out some circuitry sounds that were reminiscent of a fax machine receiving a call from a computer. Then Kilmer made some sounds with his electronic drum pad that are probably what you hear when travelling through a worm hole in outer space. The improvisation on the whole was at once a representation of subconscious processes going on at the molecular level, and deep space at an intergalactic level.

That is also what Club d’Elf is all about.

Review by Jeff Nania

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