Sunlight on the Moon
One of the catchiest tracks on Elf Power’s 12th album is a sunny little ditty called “Total Annihilation.” Despite that high-goth title, it’s actually three-and-a-half minutes of bouncy guitars, fizzy synths, perky hooks, and lyrics about “illusions of fate.” Frontman Andrew Rieger has always been fascinated by the vagaries of human metaphysics, yet rarely does he allow such dark ideas to obstruct a short, sharp psych-pop song.
That mix of existential weariness and musical breeziness may be the secret to Elf Power’s longevity. The band grew out of the Elephant 6 movement of the mid 1990s, when every musician in Athens seemed dead set on making pastoral folk-pop sound just as Southern as the blues. Twenty years later, Elf Power remains a crucial act in the local scene, not only releasing a dozen albums (some of them classics) but also running Orange Twin, an eco-village that doubles as a record label for some of the city’s best acts.
Sunlight on the Moon settles further into the mid-fi DIY groove that has colored Elf Power’s last few albums, emphasizing the homemade and the handcrafted. Recording in and around Athens, the band creates human-size arrangements for Rieger’s heady lyrics without sacrificing urgency for universality.
As his melodies fold in on themselves on the title track and “Grotesquely Born Anew,” the band deploys blasts of churning guitar and dream-sequence synths. The prevailing mood on Sunlight is woozy, as though Elf Power was trying to capture the sound of astral projection. It’s rare that music this earthy suggests an out-of-body experience, yet there’s an oddball stateliness to these tunes, as if the band was explaining the precepts of a new pagan religion. Maybe that’s what they mean by “cult” band.