Norwegian prog rockers Shaman Elephant are back, and they are bringing us all something very special this year; a brand-new album containing seven sparkling compositions that are a delightful blend of 60s psychedelia and 70s prog rock but with a modern sheen and a timeless feel to them.
A huge part of the debut album’s charm was the fact that it was so eclectic, eccentric, and sprawling, which made it a wildly unpredictable and captivating listen. Wide Awake but Still Asleep is a more focused and disciplined affair, but it is still wonderfully playful and full of warmth and vigor. It sounds like the natural continuation of Crystals (2016). The 2020 opus is also noticeably harder and heavier in some respects but then on the other hand it is quite soothing and mellow at times also, so the contrasts and opposite energies that constantly wrestle with each other within Shaman Elephant’s surreal musical universe are as prominent as ever. Did I mention that it is quite bombastic and full of energy too? Well, it is. There are two cuts that stand out here, one of which is the title track and the other is ‘Ease of Mind’. The former is a stately piece of work and arguably the group’s finest composition to date while the latter is incredibly moving. Another fabulous piece is the epic ‘Traveller’, which contains so many twists and turns that it will make your head spin. ‘Steely Dan’ is the least captivating of them all and pretty much the only song that is neither entirely flawless nor all-out thrilling.
From wildly psychedelic and strange to heartwarming and utterly infectious, Wide Awake but Still Asleep covers a lot of ground both stylistically and in terms of its many fluctuating moods. Thanks to such strong melodies, splendid arrangements that are full of surprises, and heaps of confidence that are present on the disc, this record may just turn out to be one of the year’s best releases.
Wide awake but Still Asleep is out May the 29th via Karisma Records.