Elf Power's new album smells like spring's impending arrival: soaring vocal harmonies, blooming melodies and an enveloping warmth clouded by a loose-limbed gait.
The beaming psych-pop segues from the homey roots jangle of '06's Back to the Web and the straightforward attack of '04's Walking With the Beggar Boys back to the group's signature cosmic, acid-washed sound.
In a Cave features another buoyantly off-beat baker's dozen of tracks ranging nicely from garage-psych ballad "Spiral Stairs" to "The New Mythology," whose exuberant melody suggests the New Pornographers. The band is buoyed by the return of Eric Harris (Olivia Tremor Control), who played on Beggar Boys, but now serves as the touring drummer. Harris co-wrote several songs with frontman Andrew Rieger.
"He had a couple of instrumentals that I liked a lot. I took a trip this summer, singing lyrics for them as I went along, which was fun," Rieger says, speaking from a Mississippi roadside, as the band is on its way to South by Southwest.
Harris' distinctive homemade tape organ is also featured on several tracks. It's a personal invention made from multiple tape recorders attached to a keyboard that presses play on the recorders, triggering a cassette of a cello or horn playing a particular note. "It creates this warbly, psychedelic, kind of trippy sound," which they've sampled for the tour, Rieger says.
Besides the new album, Elf Power also found time to back Vic Chesnutt on his latest, due in the fall when they'll back him on tour.
"We'd go over there, he'd teach us a song, we'd run through it four, five times and then we'd record it live and move on," he says. "You didn't get to overthink it too much."
Meanwhile, Elf Power continues to work In a Cave. "There's some straight-ahead rock songs, weird, trippy moments and mellow, folky stuff," Rieger says. "I like the fact that it's all over the map."
Elf Power CD release show, w/ Ham1 and Madeline Adams. $5-$7. 10:30 p.m. Sat., March 29. 40 Watt Club, 285 W. Washington St., Athens. 706-549-7871. www.40watt.com.
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