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Club D’Elf: Electric Moroccoland/So Below

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A Boston-based instrumental collective whose talented cast revolves mostly around the vision of bassist/founder Mike Rivard and drummer Erik Kerr, Club d’Elf is, to say the least, multifaceted. On the first half of the ensemble’s new double-CD set, Electric Moroccoland, Rivard draws deep from the Gnawan sounds of North African trance music. It’s an incredible series of jams featuring a disparate assemblage of musicians, including Rivard on a three-stringed instrument called the sintir, keyboardist and Club d’Elf associate John Medeski, oud player Brahim Fribgane, turntablist Mister Rourke, violinist Mat Maneri and guitarists Randy Roos, Duke Levine and David Tronzo. Gnawan singer Hassan Hakmoun contributes a delightfully exotic vocal on the band’s interpretation of “Sunshine of Your Love,” and the disc ends with a haunting homage to Rivard’s friend Mark Sandman via a cover of Morphine’s “Rope on Fire.”

Things are a bit more conventional on the latter disc, So Below, but just a bit. Playing an Americanized psychedelic jazz-fusion with funk and dub overtones, Rivard and company improvise freely and sustain an intense, mesmeric vibe throughout. DJ Logic contributes some smart turntable sounds, and even rock guitarist Reeves Gabrels makes a bracing appearance. Club d’Elf certainly isn’t above using the blues as a sonic template, and the group’s hypnotic version of “I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down” is right on. Rivard re-emphasizes his connection with Sandman on the title track, blending Sandman’s own tracks into the mix. Overall, this stuff is simply world-class fusion, with excellent production value to boot. So join the club.

Originally Published