While I appreciate the sheer choice of the artists currently performing in indie, it is slightly sad that so many songs seem to be influenced by just a few predecessors. I often listen to a new track and it feels 90% of the time I think the track is a reimagining of one of “Oasis”, “Smiths”, “Monkeys” or “Roses”.
Helpfully outside of the core, a number of acts continue to push the boundaries. The Elephant Trees are one of those special bands as they offer new development in indie.
Won’t it be wonderful if in 30 years’ time, I’m sat at a gig in my wheelchair, hearing aid turned up full, watching a group of eager teens on stage and after a few notes mentally think “I can hear some Trees in the mix”. Dear reader, please be gentle on the elderly gentleman slowly inching his way up the stairs at Leeds Key Club.
I’ve been actively following Martha, Sam and the Elephant Tree guys for two or three years, and how this band have grown. A musical metamorphosis of this scale in music doesn’t come along too often, but the growth in sophistication in the music of The Elephant Trees is hard to overstate. This Monachopsis EP makes me feel we are in the presence of a game changer, and you know what, having met Martha and Sam a couple of times they will probably just shake their heads, look embarrassed and laugh at the notion of just how special they are.
The tracks on this Monachopsis EP are a mix of 2019 released tracks and a few new bangers. My initial reaction was a confusion about how The Elephant Trees could produce music that feels both commercial and art house. The opener I Don’t Know What I Want Any More has a very commercial almost dancey trance start, but with a very dark edgy streak. As the song progresses, you get a clear picture of someone hanging onto mental health by a thread and both vocals and lyrics get more urgent and anxious. “You had it all and then you went and lost it” is a common worry and is amplified as a theme in the song. I guess life is easier if you live for the now and let the past and future look after themselves. Not many succeed to do it; me included. The track is really a magnificent piece and one of those fairly rare songs that you can pick out new stuff from on repeated plays.
My personal favourite of the bunch is the weird and wonderfully menacing vibe of Skip Me, which really brings the following track 4100 into its own. This is how I want art house indie electronic music to sound (and it so often doesn’t). It might be a slightly strange choice to cite as favourite but I think this track is the bridge that links all of the EP songs together. 4100 has become a familiar friend of mine so I value the new feel that Skip Me lends to the track. From its funky electro opening and Martha’s edgy vocal delivery, it’s a nicely swaying and swirling tune. I can almost imagine this is the band’s Wuthering Heights.
Bricks and Mortar show a different aspect; a sound which matches the reflectiveness and hesitancy of their lyrics. Here we have almost an All About Eve goth folk feel but mixed with some elegant electronic trickery. Martha’s vocal range comes to the fore here; soft and soothing in places, story teller in others, anguish dripping emotion in others.
Idiot is the track released earlier this year, and seems to be bridge between the earlier Trees and the more confident band keen to reflect a mirror up to society and highlight how the complexity of the world affects us. Idiot is a more simple plea to ignore the pressures of society and norms. the Trees at their funkiest with a dancing hook, but a track with a killer guitar riff.
As an EP Monachopsis has it all; maturity, stretching boundaries and huge listenability. Monachopsis (feeling disconnected to others) appears a strange outcome in a world where we are increasingly more accepting of differences between us. The Elephant Trees are highlighting an important issue, perhaps the anxiety of expressing our differences will subside as we further accept we shouldn’t twist our personalities to conform to how we think others want us to be.
Monachopsis was one of those EP’s I received in advance (reviewers perk) and it literally blew me away from the first listen; without doubt this is the EP of 2019 to my ears. Yep I’m calling it now.
I’m absolutely gutted I won’t be catching The Elephant Trees on their latest series of gigs at the end of November as I always do try to see them. Hit their social media for more details. In short in our region, the band are playing locally in Leeds on the 29th November.