After seven double-CD releases of live material (!), Club d'Elf finally drop their first studio album, eight years in the making. They're still plying their patented world fusion/avant-garde jazz/dub/trance chillout music and the m.o. is still basically the same, but the studio aspect allows for greater options on a number of levels. Club d'Elf's Mike Rivard can draw from an unbelievable talent pool (close to 100 players have been "members" of the club), but the live shows are constrained by who can physically attend the gig on any given night. With the studio, Rivard can put together any band he wants, whether they could all be in the same room at the same time or not. The studio also allows for a lusher, more layered sound, multiple overdubs, and detailed production touches that just can't be pulled off live. For example, "Wet Bones" was purely a studio construction built around a Billy Martin solo drum track (released on Illy B Eats, Vol. 1) and has Rivard playing a couple basses as well as sintir and effects. You can't do that live. Other tracks, like "Bass Beat Box" and "Now I Understand," have been part of the live show for years, but benefit from the added production. Great performances litter Now I Understand, but John Medeski and Mat Maneri deserve special mention (just check the Mellotron/electric viola feature on "Bass Beat Box") for their near ubiquity on the album. Guitarists Duke Levine, Dave Tronzo, and Reeves Gabrels are also on board for a track each. Brahim Fribgane contributes some earthy oud playing in several spots, and both Mister Rourke and DJ Logic turn in some nice work on the turntables, with Rivard anchoring the proceedings throughout with his big fat bass grooves. Now I Understand isn't an improvement over the live d'Elf shows; it's a different side of the same organism. Consider it the polished gemstone to the uncut diamonds of the live releases. Excellent.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard
feat: Jenifer Jackson