There’s so much to savor in these things that they deserve to be appreciated on numerous levels. Serious skaters have to constantly innovate the form or risk irrelevance; they have to ramp up the degrees of difficulty and danger with every new trick. When they fall, they have to laugh like it’s hilarious, even though the pain is akin to being hit by a car. They have to pull it all off with effortless grace and signature style. Then, of course, there is the work you don’t see on screen: the skaters dedicating countless hours to learning and developing their craft; the camera people getting those insane angles; the editors cutting those reels. There is all this shit being done with such obsessive focus, all worthy of attention and acclaim, but that is not why I watch these videos. In fact, all that shit is almost invisible to me, because when I watch these videos, my experience is almost purely visceral. My brain is so attuned to the momentum and the movement that I feel it in my body; before long, the laws of physics seem to have dissolved.
I get the same exact sensation listening to the music of Elder. The technical excellence displayed by the band is close to peerless and truly flawless, and their performances are unyieldingly intense and brazenly dazzling. Somehow every moment of every Elder song intends to be a highlight, and somehow, it succeeds. You can tell they’ve woodshedded this stuff forever and diagrammed these songs like architects, but the product they deliver doesn’t sound like work. It sounds like fireworks. It sounds like flight.
This is not the first time I’ve compared Elder’s work to feats of athletic excellence, by the way: When I wrote about the band’s 2015 LP, Lore, I likened it to former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez’ 1999 season, one of the most artistic and dominant performances in baseball history. And I think that fit. But Elder’s new one, the upcoming Reflections Of A Floating World, approaches art with a pro skater’s commitment to making every move feel astonishing and easy and impossible, all at once. The playing is even better; the songs hit even harder; the highs are even higher. And there are no lows. I’m sure Elder fell plenty of times making Reflections, but they managed to invent and perfect a million new tricks. And they land every single one.
Reflections is almost a full hour of ridiculously dextrous and explosive music driven by frontman Nick DiSalvo’s godlike guitar work, but he’s surrounded by a wrecking-crew rhythm section (bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto) and a couple additional hands (guitarist Michael Risberg and pedal-steel player Michael Samos), all of whom match his excellence on every beat, making the whole thing feel both incredibly massive and impossibly fleet. The band’s sound includes elements of stoner doom, prog, psychedelic, and post-metal, but Elder don’t really belong to a genre, and even if you hate all those types of music, I think there’s still a pretty good chance you’ll be blown away by Elder. (If you actively like any of those types of music, I’m confident you’ll fucking love these guys, if you don’t already.)
Let’s test my theory right now. We’re premiering Reflections’ lead single, “The Falling Veil,” today. Below the track itself is a description of the music as provided by DiSalvo. He doesn’t compare his band’s work to skate videos, and as such, I think his insight is a whole lot more valuable than mine, so as you’re listening, you should read that. Whatever you do, though, you should listen, because the song is fucking awesome. You will feel it in your body, and your body will feel like gravity is gone and the world is a beautiful burst of air, light, sound, and speed. Listen.
Reflections Of A Floating World is out 6/2 and you can pre-order it here. And here’s DiSalvo’s note:
In the years following the release of Lore and the extensive touring that ensued, life became a blur of constant touring, flights, opportunities and stress, friendships and broken relationships – put shortly, the trials and tribulations of a band playing music for a living and living to play. It is during these years that the lyrical content for the new album took form, from introspection about what it means to live life on your own terms, to refuse to cave to societal and peer pressure and carve your own path. The term “the floating world” comes from a particular period in Japanese society which is associated with a flourishing of the arts, but also a self-destructively decadent lifestyle. Our own “floating world” is the one we inhabit today – filled with greed, sadistically capitalist and relentlessly hedonistic – and the album’s songs are the band’s own “reflections” of it. In traditional Elder fashion, however, nothing is one-sided: the songs portray the tragedy of a meaningless and shallow existence, but also celebrate hope in an almost anarchic, self-determined life.
“The Falling Veil” is a quite energetic song for the band and one that we started writing in one form or another directly after Lore was released. One thing the listener might immediately recognize is the prominence of Fender Rhodes and Mellotron in the song, especially in the latter half; we wanted to give this album a more fleshed-out sound in every regard, and a lot of the time that ended up being in the form of extra guitar tracks or keyboards that we couldn’t previously imagine live as a three-piece. Lyrically, the song is about a feeling a lot of people probably have reaching a certain point in their life – that they have been living according to the rules or preconceptions of other people, that the “correct” way to live one’s life is often not determined by oneself, but by his or her peers or society. Suddenly the penny drops and you realize that you’re not responsible to anyone but yourself and your own values. This is the moment that the veil of the reality you thought you knew drops and the world becomes a more magical place than you imagined.