SonVer vs Elelphant Leaf: 3 Songs
Line Out Records

UK quartet SonVer (cello, guitars, drums, and bass) and Belgium outfit Elephant Leaf (a quartet fronted by vocalist and violinist Lucie Dehli) blend so seamlessly on this three-song collaboration, one would guess they're a single unit (it's not unusual for today's bands to work entirely via file sharing, but in this case the material sounds so natural it's still hard to believe they completed the project without ever meeting). That 3 Songs sounds so cohesive is no doubt due in part to the unsettling ambiance that persists throughout. Structurally, the eighteen-minute EP bookends two SonVer pieces with one by Belgium outfit Elephant Leaf, with each group contributing to the other's material.

An eerie ambient setting, “Gomera” begins by melding swooping string tones with atmospheric noises from a field recording made on the beach in La Gomera in the Canary Islands , and the piece's haunted character only intensifies when the entranced vocals appear. That haunted quality carries over into “Love is Where You Make It, Love is Where You Are” though this time it's possible to decipher the words Lucie Dehli utters in her hushed vocal and a stronger rhythm dimension moves to the fore alongside the violin, piano, and cello playing. “Safety in Numbness” moves the EP closest to conventional song form, with Dehli's voice more clearly heard than before. The song begins in curdling trip-hop mode (comparisons to Portishead are well nigh unavoidable when her emotive delivery is so slinkily coiled around the simmering groove) but, three-quarters in, the skies open to let smoldering guitars work their incinerating magic on the serpentine pulse and bring the eight-minute epic to a powerful close. The high quality of the groups' emotive soundscapes suggests that perhaps they should consider turning their joint venture into a permanent arrangement.

September 2008