Imagine the eldritch and arcane sound of a cultish band of blind, hooded, albino acolytes, engrossed within their eerie sonic witch-mantra, performing before a vast cyclopean temple of ice-cold basalt, jutting forth into an alien sky of pure indigo, triple moons illuminating the sickly fungus encroaching every shining edifice, built by some insane crustacean race at non-Euclidean angles a millennia before the great lizards ruled the earth. That band is Queen Elephantine. Mystic, doomed, beautiful.
Two e-releases here, put out by the band themselves on their website and available as free downloads, and may I say, both are definitely worth listening to if you like drugs and stoner-trance-drone. In fact, you don’t even need the drugs, they’re an optional addition if you feel up to it. I just had a cup of tea and a flapjack.
Q.E. are a rather exotic and cosmopolitan collective originally formed in Hong Kong as teenage droners just a few years ago and are now based in New York. They recorded both these releases as a four piece but they’ve had a bit of a loose line-up history with members floating in and out like sorcerers on flying carpets. The current band revolves around the writing duo of “Indy” Shome and Rajkishen Narayanan (both handle guitars, vocals and various other instruments).
‘Yatra’ was released this spring and comprises two long and meditatively structured tracks. ‘Droning Earth’ starts with a few seconds of feedback and breaks into a lazy and buzzing guitar riff. Far away sounding vocals then enter the mix (and proceed to distort and modulate at various points), followed by undulating bass and cymbal heavy percussion and proceeds to build for the next twenty minutes. Occasionally the main riff drops out, and sometimes the drumming, to allow space for general guitar improvisation and feedback.
‘Chariot in Solemn Procession’ is an even more beautiful piece of music. Thirteen minutes of droning after-life trance, the bass pulsing, the vocals, harsher than the last track, wailing in places and almost chanting in others. On both tracks I hear what sounds like the wobbling drone of a sitar, buzzing and humming in the background. The production is rough and lo-fi which really suits the music.
‘To Tartarus’ was recorded for a 7″ that never was, and was released for download this summer. The five minute title track is a slowburning and brooding instrumental (as are all the tracks here), featuring menacing distortion, a touch of slide guitar, and subtle, understated percussion on the toms.
‘Nagin’ is under a minute long and features shrill pipes and percussion, and feels like some kind of long forgotten tribal music from somewhere deep within the lost rain-forested valleys of Asia. ‘Mirage’ is solemn strummed chords, bass, and the merest hint of percussion. It sets a sombre tone that reminded me of my own mortality, and my place in the universe as an infinitesimally tiny spec of sweet fuck-all.
Q.E. have created some genuinely moving and deeply ‘spiritual’ music here, and the feeling of narcotic other-worldliness is definitely enhanced by the murky production. Sure, one can detect the various influences; traditional Asian folk music based around pentatonic scales, Indian ragas, the ambient drone doom of Earth and Sunn0))), stoner rock and even classic late sixties/early seventies psychedelia like late period Thirteenth Floor Elevators, plus a hot lazy desert Josh Homme/Kyuss kind of vibe. This band have a very special feel to them, a heady brew of eastern notes dancing and snaking around a central droning riff that anchors each song to a central point of psychic audio-focus. On paper I’ve heard it before, but listening to it in my living room is a simply riveting experience. Mightily impressive. Download from http://queenelephantine.clfrecords.com/music.html.
Scribed by: Adam Stone