Track By Track: Elephant House – Pony Ride
In an age of political disarray and troubled times why not turn towards psychedelia? That's what they did in the sixties was it not? Here to bring a new definition to the modern day term are Elephant House, a London based duo who recently released their debut on ADAADAT, an experimental label from London which has been around the block for some fifteen odd years now. The album is an elegant assortment of intriguing twists and turns as it eases the listener through troubled glitches and into enlightenment.
We asked the duo to talk us through their new release below…
Deep yellow/light brown with bright blue, the colour of a sun scorched land and a dry sky.
The inspiration behind the title comes from an old Mongolian fable: A female camel is taken on a pilgrimage through the desert with her young calf. The pilgrims are looking for a secret location to bury a recently deceased royal, along with all their worldly possessions. At the grave site the pilgrims kill the young calf in front of its mother, as part of a ritual involving music which is intended to heighten the emotional bond between mother and calf. In doing so the pilgrims know that the female camel will always remember the secret location of the grave so that they can return to it in the future, as tradition requires. The Camel Mom sheds tears and never forgets.
Musically the track partly draws on Vassilis Soukas's deeply sorrowful clarinet playing. The track materialised very quickly and effortlessly with almost all takes including the digital drums, being the first takes. When we made this we were in our studio and home, which was set up in a friendly warehouse that we shared with 5 more creative individuals. Perhaps the track should be listened at home before bedtime. Season…perhaps winter.
Striking oranges and blues, shining light greens and yellows…glittering, bright colours.
This track tells the same story but from the point of view of the humans/pilgrims. They will travel through the desert in their finest clothing, perform ritual and dig a grave.
At the time of the recording we were listening to a lot of old South Asian music, particularly Cambodian, mostly from the 60s and 70s. And Maurice Ravel. We had a more specific intention with this track, unlike Camel Mom which just happened out of nowhere. We wanted it to be graceful and empowering and spent far more time arranging it. Perhaps a good track to listen to when a difficult course of action is about to be taken. Season…we think Spring best describes it.
This is the colour of average winter London sunlight coming through a wide window: grey. But with the additional hint of warm yellow emitting from a dim floor lamp.
Given the cruel nature of the camel story we felt it would be good to take the listener out of that narrative and open a small window into our daily routine at the studio. Doodling around on the pump organ and patching the MS20 are things we do when at a more loose state. We just decided to stick a microphone in the room and record it all as it happened. Best to listen on a winter early weekday. Season would probably be winter during the Christmas holidays.
The colour of sand as seen through a shallow stream of water. Perhaps with a reflection of what's above it.
This track came to us late on an autumn night. We had been repeatedly watching "Woman of the Dunes" (Suna No Onna) by Hiroshi Teshigahara and the imagery of the film had a strong impact on us. Thematically the track suits the camel narrative: It is the memory of the traumatic event after many years. Perhaps listen when sad and wallowing over something traumatic…..or maybe not…
The colour of pearls as seen in a dark cave.
This is a love song. Maybe a bit of a sad love song…The synths were recorded in one go, as they happened. A couple of years later we recorded the choir-esque vocals and made it complete. It feels a bit like early autumn and we wouldn't recommend playing it while on an intimate date! Or maybe yes…why not?
Shuidiao Getou (Prelude to the Water Melody)
Moon silver and cold white jade.
We recorded this for the Chinese Mid Autumn festival. It is an ancient melody, there have been numerous interpretations of it throughout the ages. Ours is just one of them. We needed to get it done quickly in time for the celebrations and we even made a video for it.
The song celebrates the fullness of the moon. It should be listened to at night, in autumn, on a full moon.
Predominately pink with small white figures and evil black undercurrents.
This tune existed as an undecipherable tape loop for almost 3 years. It was the by-product of a late afternoon improv session on the MS20. We performed it live on various occasions, trying to figure it out, jam with it and keep in time…or ignore it. Until we realised it was a 17/4 time signature. The theme returns back to its basis on the 18th beat. After that realisation we started arranging it in the studio. It became Pony Ride, the album title track. We imagine it as a colour version of The Night of the Hunter, with the kids escaping from evil on a pony. Maybe a white pony…
Buy the release HERE.