Elephant Wrecking Ball – Sticker Fetish

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These guys are definitely named appropriately. The effects-heavy and experimental trombone-playing laid over the top of a technical rhythm section evokes images of a herd of elephants in conversation.

The wrecking ball reference amplifies the strength and power of that imagery, just like their sound.

Wild Sound

Elephant Wrecking Ball have a new album, Barren Serenade, released just this month. They put out their first album, Spacement Sessions, in 2011. They also have a live album called Live Demolition that contains several unreleased songs. The lack of lyrics means their linguistic creativity is distilled down to their song titles, ranging from the punny “Camping’s Intents” to the elephant-related “Stomp Stomp Stomp.”

The latest album stands out from the others as it includes a pair of remixes as well as some varied instrumentation. An electric guitar appears on “Five Bucks,” while “This Is How We Slow Dance” contains a winding trombone-versus-trumpet duel. The trombone also sports a cleaner tone with fewer effects. Elephant Wrecking Ball seem to be counting on the strength of their playing on this album, rather than relying on a range of effects.

Talking Points

Their early catalog heavily spotlights the wah in a Peanuts-esque mimicry of speech. The trombone-elephants converse with more of an excited jabber, however, than the tired drone of Charlie Brown’s teachers. You can easily hear the jazz, reggae and funk inspirations, mixed with a dash of ska, throughout their songs. And as an upbeat all-instrumental band, this is the type of music where you could spin any song and just groove out and have a good day.

“Camping’s Intents” displays the dynamics of their instrumentation, with the trombone quieting down and letting the bass and drums groove for a bit before flying back into the forefront. Best intro goes to “Bioluminescent Circus,” which starts with the three instruments trading notes before joining together in a deep drone. Later, the song makes use of echo and octave to create a futuristic, elephants-in-space vibe.

Doing It Live

You can get a sense of the power of their live show from the song “Scream Plunder.” The bass tone sounds fuller and dirtier (in a good way) compared to the reserved studio version. Meanwhile, the trombone spits the notes out with more urgency. This combination creates an intense atmosphere suited for the wild raucousness of a live show.

Yet, no matter what crazy wailing and braying the trombone plays, the bass and drums are always there in the background, holding down the tightest beats.