Elf Power

Back to the Web (Rykodisc)

After stripping away the sonic eccentricities and discovering a more pop-style Elf Power, Back to the Web returns the band to its usual intricate, playful musical home. The group's aptitude for creating albums that speak for themselves first and the band second makes each release sound like a distinct era in the band's ever-evolving course.

The gyspy folk of Back to the Web finds Andrew Rieger creating invitingly warm environments with 12-string acoustic guitar. He orchestrates violin, cello, and accordion to great effect and also employs calming, Tibetan-style throatsinging. Backward loops and tribal drumming are among the surprises discovered on subsequent listens. "An Old Familiar Scene" pairs detached singing with a choir of guitars, and "23rd Dream" is touched by mandolin and melancholy.

Though this release successfully couples country-rock flavors with Middle Eastern spice, to like the Elves is to appreciate some constants: These Elephant 6 collectivists have a need to match psych-pop folk melodies with intriguing lyrics and complex instrumentation. But they find new ground to explore with an evolving cast of players and new instruments. Back to the Web proves how well they do it.