Forty minutes isn't too much to ask, though much of that time might be spent reading the title of this experimental project. Forty minutes of eccentric electronic exploration, some of it quirky, quite a bit of it inspired. Michael Serviolo and Chris Steel's Elan is one of those projects that strays from conventionalism like many who dwell in the underground of coldwave adventurers. But unlike most of their contemporaries, Elan keeps a satisfying pace and cuts their emprise short to a mere forty minutes, I repeat, in case you missed it, forty minutes. Why harp on the running time, you ask? Because it works, friends, it works. It allows Serviolo and Steel to present the ominous lurches of their minds without torturing the listener beyond excess. The Deluge of Soundtracks and Other Voices From the World's Silent Majority is a strange trip, yet the payouts it delivers are rewarding.
The serene electronica that dominates much of Elan's project sometimes takes on a calliope sound, a hurdy gurdy dancing monkey sensation that sounds ridiculous, but think about it when listening. Afterbirth Part 2 (which, oddly enough, is the opening track, preceding Afterbirth Part 1) is an example, like Afterbirth Part 1, Rotary Bug and Blanco. On the other hand, Deluge is much more than a hurdy gurdy affair.
Take, for instance, Hum Width. It is a slick track with a jazz fusion and step feel to it, while the synth lead takes on a prog rock mentality. An offbeat but agreeable blend. Lizard Special, one of the disc's finest moments, has a really nice, sensible beat that is textured with traditional Japanese influence to the synths. It could probably find a home in an anime feature and by the end, the track leaves a sedate feeling. Gordon is another jazz-based mix that constantly switches between coldwave sampling and snazzy beats. Madwhale's Bass Car has some Herbie Hancock mindfulness about it with its drum and bass hip-hop intelligence, a jam that manages to keep its head about itself.
The remainder of Deluge is a hit-and-run attack of short-spark tests. For example, the song Testing. Testing is a mere run of note scales amidst a beat that crops up intermittently. Beech is twenty seconds of organ notes, and the likewise time-stricken Micro Collapse and Linen are so quickly introduced one hardly has a chance to absorb them, while the ridiculous Kill the Wabbit and Fhive rapidly run together without realization unless one is looking at the time count on the CD player. Amusingly, these latter two tracks serve to create a dramatic stamping effect, much like the classic animated short where Godzilla's foot crushes Bambi to the tune of the final piano strike in The Beatles' A Day in the Life. Not to compare Elan to The Beatles, gosh no, but that is the image that comes to mind by Elan's bludgeoned short tracks. It helps keep Deluge from wandering into self-importance, and moreover, into self-gratification; a sore spot this reviewer has noted constantly from other artists working in this genre.
That is not to say everything on Deluge is a masterpiece, but then again Elan seems to make no bones that this project is more of an experiment than an attempt to create a full-length recording. Polymeric Trickster is shaky and unsettled, though a nice subtle tone hovers beneath the cloudiness of the coldwave smothering the track. Rubber Baby Bubble Bumpkin is a singular beat crushed by more coldwave, creating an airy lunacy that captures a screaming sample and ultimately creates a scratchy 45 caught on a skip. Annoying to a degree, but those who remember 45 records can smile at this analogy.
On the other hand, Deluge finishes off in fine style, hence making the entire project thoroughly excusable. Guitar Log features a synth lead trying to nail out guitar notes like a nubile axe slinger hashing through his first week of lessons while Molten Rock merges from its predecessor, lighting up furious electronic power chords that sound as if our hypothetical would-be six-string prodigy has found his groove at last. This is a highly creative moment on Deluge, as it finishes with Zebra, one of the more comprehensible tracks with its alternarage mentality and solid beat. Something like a Siouxie and the Banshees track reinterpreted by their juniors. Zebra finishes poignantly with a recognizable Britpunk mentality, a brilliant conclusion to this seven-minute epic closer.
The Deluge of Soundtracks and Other Voices From the World's Silent Majority is a guilty pleasure, unless you're a purist of this genre. Then it is a tour-de-force. While one is tempted to scream amateur in a few spots, Deluge is carefully constructed and masterfully paced, one of the few experimental albums that sacrifices indulgence in exchange for suggestion. Suggestion of something more meaningful than trying to seek out harmony amidst cacophony.
Post: Gestalt Records, 3600 Osage St., Denver, CO, 80221, USA