April 23, 2014

Queen Elephantine - Scarab

Written by Ulla Roschat.

Art by Adrian Dexter

Scarab (May 2013) is Queen Elephantine’s latest release of four full length albums and several splits and EPs. They originally formed in Hong Kong in 2006, but are currently based in Providence/RI/USA. Roughly described the album is some kind of experimental meditative doom drone whatever. Guitar, slide guitar, bass, tanpura, vocals and two drumsets are the instruments Queen Elephantine use to conjure a strong psychedelic, lysergic vibe and create a dark, mysterious atmosphere.

What you will need to appreciate this album is an open mind and open senses, and if you’re willing to submit yourself to it you will be rewarded with an utterly satisfying listening experience.

Queen Elephantine 2012. Photo by karawho

As everything is very slow, drawn out, utterly heavy, repetitive and minimalistic, there doesn't seem to happen very much, but the open spaced sound is completely filled with resonance and reverb especially from guitar, bass and the vocals. The vocals are sung with extremely lengthened vowels that perfectly correspond with the strings’ sound and remind me of the meditative aum chants, but with a dirge like “funeralistic” wail to it. It’s also filled, with the millions of different percussion sounds, as the percussion is quite predominant throughout the the album. And finally the underlying buzzing drone sounds of the slide guitar and tanpura seem to be of constant presence.

Queen Elephantine 2012. Photo by karawho

The opening track Veil indeed does function as an opening tool. It opens a door to mysterious and exotic soundscapes. With a slow and patient build up, drony, percussive and luringly hypnotic it leads you to meet the first murky riffs and the unusual use of the vocals, to some strange temple-like place, awe-inspiring and compelling all the same. There’s a sense of a lurking unknown threatening danger combined with some power omnisciently aware of an inevitable doom, yet compassionately wailing about it. And this sense is growing with each of the four songs of the album.

Equally growing is the discrepancy between the meditative repetitiveness and the weird, unconventional structures and disturbing dissonances, the first requires a kind of “mental dispersal” and the latter rather a focused concentration. And herein lies the true beauty and brilliancy of Scarab; the contradicting elements are so perfectly balanced, that there’s always an exciting tension carried in an entrancing flow of dark and mysterious, trippy sounds.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

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