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Elf Power
CREATURES
(SPINART)

Stars graphics

Of all the bands associated with the Elephant 6 commune of day-trippers and night urchins, Elf Power have shown the most staying power. With Olivia Tremor Control on indefinite hiatus and Neutral Milk Hotel AWOL, itís been left to the Elves to fill the kind of neo-Tolkien psych-pop void thatís Elephant 6ís bread and butter. And Creatures, Elf Powerís fifth album, is arguably their best yet. Itís certainly their best-sounding in terms of fidelity. Even though the material is rife with songwriter Andrew Riegerís typically fantastical and portentous psychic musings on crawling demons, everlasting screams, and "old crones and black balloons," thereís a new-found brightness, a crisp clarity to the arrangements, that hasnít always been there. Both "Let the Serpent Sleep" and "The Creature" are hook-driven, buoyantly Luna-esque numbers whose airy bounce masks the baleful warnings intimated by their titles. Elsewhere, the soothing oblivion promised by "Visions of the Sea" is as much Fairport Convention as it is Fables-era R.E.M. ó a majestic slice of maritime folk-rock dread built on a blue-green bed of percussion, keyboards, and jangling guitars. Underneath its surface beauty, the sea has its secrets, and so too does this disc.

BY JONATHAN PERRY

Issue Date: June 6 - 13, 2002
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