This album is a good example of one where my enjoyment factor doesn’t really match how I attempt to rate it. That happens sometimes. I really enjoy this album, but while writing about it, I settled on this rating. E-L-R are back with their sophomore album, Vexier. I’ve actually had it for some time, but I’ve delayed the review again and again. I’m not sure why. The album released on March 11th.
E-L-R is a Swiss band with plenty of mystery surrounding them. No, I haven’t a clue what their name means. No, I don’t know the names of the members. All I know is this cryptic lineup: I.R. on bass and vocals, S.M. on guitar and vocals, and M.K. on drums.
The mysterious nature of their presentation is perhaps in keeping with the music itself. This is a doomgaze and post-metal hybrid, though I think they offer hints of the lumbering stoner rock of bands like Elder, too. I find the stoner aspect primarily in the format and style of the writing: long, winding tracks with hypnotic, driving guitars; luminous, powerful bass; and dynamic, cymbal-heavy drums. Yes, there is doom in their sound, but honestly not that much.
What E-L-R offers is something that those genre labels don’t capture very well, though. This music is all about textural, transient effect. The driving nature of the music is equally balanced by ethereal, shadowy vocals and almost a ritualistic, furtive ambience. It actually reminds me of Alcest to some degree, but with less melody and more guitar overdrive.
The weakness here, I believe, is either a lack of personality, or a personality that is buried so deeply that many people would give up before they find it. There are all sorts of creepy and melodic elements that fade in and out of the music, especially the effervescent vocals. These things do feel like character to me, and they also reveal themselves more and more as you listen multiple times, especially on a good system. However, there’s also the fact that all five songs sound very similar, almost identical at times. There is no way that I would be able to identify a song by playing a minute or two of it randomly. This extreme abstraction can leave listeners feeling disconnected, unless by some chance they are sucked into the trance state that this album is certainly capable of creating. I’ve fallen into it several times myself.
The album only has five tracks, but still clocks in at 46 minutes in length. Like I said, it isn’t much use to discuss individual tracks because the album pushes constantly forward using similar beats and grooves. My favorite parts are always the subtle vocal choruses that rise once or twice per song, such as on “Seeds”. That song does feel like it has some light in its darkness. “Three Winds” is another song with moments of melodic clarity, but it is also probably the heaviest, especially in the rhythm section. Yet, that song also sounds remarkably like “Fleurs of Decay” at points, so maybe I’m confusing them.
The final track “Forêt” is probably the stand out as far as being different. It features a strange voiceover for much of its 12-minute runtime, most of which is pretty chaotic and dense. It’s a great ending, especially when it drops the distortion for the last couple minutes. Overall, though, this album is best heard in one sitting and without looking at the tracklist. I think with time and effort, this album can grow into something beautiful and delicate, despite its bulky and hectic first impression. Once you discover the riches therein, it can become like a dream, like a spell, very easily.
E-L-R will definitely appeal to some listeners. I enjoy this album and its rhythmic, haunted atmosphere. I’ve been listening to it pretty regularly for about a month now. But don’t expect to grasp this one without some effort on your part. Descend into the darkness willingly and purposefully, and I think you will find light within this record in places you don’t expect.
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