PHOTO CREDIT: Ash Holdsworth
I Fold You
The track, I Fold You, is available via:
28th December, 2018
The album, The Omnitone Collection, is released on 8th February, 2019. Pre-order here:
I am still in the...
rather uncomfortable grip of a cold right now - so I hope my words make sense. This is my final review of the year and with a band I am not overly-familiar with. I want to talk about Elder Island but I will chat about Bristol and its scene; artists that are new to me and I have discovered through social media; acts that can vary their aesthetic and have nimbleness for 2019; cross-pollination and how effective that can be. I will look at what 2019 will be like for Elder Island and how far they can go. We often get too obsessed with London and what is happening there and overlook Bristol. I think music has changed the last couple of years and so much of what we are looking and listening to is from outside the capital. I have been listening to a lot of London music the past few years but, more and more, I am discovering really cool stuff elsewhere. I think there is the assumption that London has all the great music and, when you consider all the labels and money here, it is not worth looking elsewhere. This is wrong because, as we can see with Elder Island, Bristol has ample ammunition. I have always loved what has come out of the city and it has always produced epic stuff. Consider all the Trip-Hop music that came from there and incredible bands like Portishead and Massive Attack. In fact, Bristol is responsible for the Trip-Hop movement and was offering something genuinely new to music. The genre is still existent today and evolving every year. We have Bristol and its innovation to thank for that. I think the city does not get the credit it deserves and we overlook all the great music there. IDLES are probably the most successful newish band from Bristol and show how diverse the culture is. I think things have changed from the 1990s and Bristol has become more varied and adaptable. There is still Trip-Hop coming from Bristol but I am discovering wonders from other genres and some great sub-genre work happening.
Maybe the strength of the live scene there means artists are able to flourish and survive. London is seeing a lot of venues close and other areas like Brighton are losing big venues. Bristol is susceptible to the same dangers but it seems the live venues there are safer. The Louisiana, Exchange; the Trinity Centre and The Old Duke are a few different venues that offer platforms to the next big things. I have not been to the city myself but know how much good music is coming from Bristol. It has been this way for decades but I think we often overlook what is emerging from there. If we keep focused on London and follow media guidance – there is still that preference for the capital – then we will not get anywhere. To be fair, things have gotten a little better regarding the imbalance and how the media perceives music’s epicenter. It was the case, not too long ago, when London ruled the roost and other areas did not get a look in. Now, there is still an unfair weight towards London but there is greater awareness of other parts. Elder Island are adding to the rich music scene in Bristol and actually tying together a range of sounds. One gets a little bit of Bristol history in the electronics, beats and experimentation but there are so many other elements to the music. I shall explore that later but I think being based in Bristol is good for them. They have so many talented peers and great venues around them. London can be great but I know hoe suffocating and isolating it can feel. There are more musicians here so it is a little hard discovering how to listen to and getting your voice heard. I can see the balance shifting and think Bristol has a lot to offer right now. Not only do we have great bands like Elder Island making moves but there are some great venues growing and remaining.
I stated how Elder Island was new to me and I wanted to end this year by looking at a band who I think will do very well. A lot of my recommendations and reviews come from direct contact where artists will get in touch and I will go from there. It is an easy way of discovering music and getting something out there but I have not often stepped away from that and done my own searching. What I have missed is a bit of diversity and change. A lot of what I have featured is good but the sounds are not hugely different. Elder Island’s usual work is very different to their latest track, I Fold You, so this might be a bit of a red herring in terms of who they are. I came across Elder Island through social media and was intrigued to see what they are all about. I have listened to some of their other music and I can see how they have changed and how fresh they appear. Their current track is different to what we will get with their upcoming album, The Omnitone Collection, and that title might be a little ironic. This suggests we will get something very similar and basic in terms of sonic exploration. What the Bristol band will actually provide is a diverse and ever-changing sounds. They have their own sound and identity but songs burst with life and adventure. I will come back to that but I think social media and streaming sites are important when it comes to music discovery. Maybe radio still holds most of the sway and influence – I think so – but you cannot discount the role of social media. Twitter is a great platform for musicians and fans alike and I have found so much cool music there. Elder Island came to me when I was looking at another site’s ‘ones to watch’ list for 2019. Elder Island were included in that and I instantly got to grips with this great band.
Next year, more and more, I am concentrating on artists who are big or at least are making strides in the industry. It has been interesting looking at smaller acts but I think I need to start focusing on acts who are a little further ahead. I am not sure where you’d put Elder Island in the list but the band are definitely capturing the imagination and making some interesting stuff right now. I will come to their latest single in a bit but I am always stunned how much great music I am getting to hear through social media. It is a huge market and it can be really challenging filtering your own tastes and honing it down. I think you have to go in with energy and hear as much as you can; put aside what sounds great and discard the rest. Maybe radio is a more reliable way of getting the music you want into the ears but social media offers great variation and eclecticism. Elder Island instantly struck my ear and I think I will check them out as we head into 2019. I am not sure which other artists will come to mind before next year but I continuously look at social media and discover something exciting every week. This time of year is when many are recommending their tips for 2019 and, of course, that means plenty of possibilities will come through. I am taking note and observing the best new artists who will make impact in 2019 and it is great to hear other people’s viewpoints. I would like to see social media go a bit further a new music site fostered that can concentrate solely on sounds and make it easy for people like me to discover great artists. I do not think we have a site like that where it is all about music and nothing else. You can locate artists based on genre and location and get a news feed that recommends wonderful acts.
PHOTO CREDIT: Will Pace
I have argued the case for social media but I do wonder whether there needs to be these bespoke sites that are dedicated to music, new and older, where we could go to find fantastic artists. Elder Island would benefit from that exposure and, whilst they have a great fanbase; I feel an extra boost would do them good. Maybe there would be a way of integrating social media and the way we find music there with something concentrated and specialist. It is interesting to ponder but, for now, I think social media is a fantastic method of getting to grips with all the best new music around. The sheer range of artists we discover through social media is staggering and it can be fun seeing all these wonderful acts sparkle. In do not think there will be a huge shift in terms of sounds next year but there will be some changes. I do think certain genres will make their voices heard and there will be greater experimentation at the forefront of music. If you consider the artists coming through and those being tipped for next year; you can get a sense of what the year will be about. Elder Island have a great name and there is so much about them to recommend. I hope I would have discovered Elder Island through radio or other forums but social media allowed me to find them a lot sooner. Considering a website and how useful it would be having a central port; consider all the music websites that deal with reviews and news and putting all that into a single site would make it easy for music lovers to focus. I am going to continue to use social media for music discovery in 2019 and am thankful they have given me another fantastic name in Elder Island. I do wonder, again, whether there is a way of having a site/area of channels like Twitter and Facebook that are dedicated to music and can make it simple to get behind the best of the old and new.
PHOTO CREDIT: David Thomas Smith
One of the reasons why I was attracted to Elder Island is because of their eclectic spirit and the way they fuse sounds. Reviewers have noted how the band mix myriad keys, guitars and other instruments to create this rich and rousing brew. I am fans of artists who have a singular sound and can focus effectively but there is always greater promise and opportunity when you push things and are more open. Elder Island are a great band who can create identity and singularity in their own way. I do like artists who are less experimental but am interested in the bolder sort who bring different shades and colours to the party. One other reason why I like artists who take music in directions is because it gets the imagination enflamed and can be a lot more interesting. I think it is hard to keep people invested and arrested if you have just one level. That might seem harsh but it can also be difficult staying focused and appealing if you marry sounds. So many people go off the rails or seem quite uneducated. Elder Island have a great knowledge of the Bristol scene, past and present, and bring a little of that into what they do. The band look further than Bristol but there is a nice balance. It is hard to put into words how Elder Island go about things but I think they are keen to express as many emotions as possible through their sound. You get so many different colours listening to their songs and it is a fascinating experience. If you are not a fan of one particular sound or line then you are not disappointed for long. If an artist is limited or they have a sole sound then you are pretty much stuck with it. That might sound a bit dismissive but I have a lot of respect for those who tease genres and sounds.
Maybe I should move onto a new subject but I am interested in the musicians who are not willing to sit still and stick with one direction. Listen to a song like I Fold You and it is very different to everything else the band are about. They have that ability to rotate their dish and try something new with every cut. Maybe I Fold You has a calm and simpler aspect because it is Christmas they want to end the year with a softer moment. I know the band have an album coming up and one can expect to see a lot of different beats and notes fused. It is hard for any artist to keep things focused when they throw so much into the mix. Elder Island do not overdo things but they are a band who keep things busy and diverse. Look at the best artists from this year and I think the focus has been on lyrical integrity and portraying something deep. The best albums of 2018 have not been hot on sonic variety but the words and intention have rung true. I think next year will be more about sonic width and promoting artists that are broader when it comes to sounds. I think, as time elapses, it is harder to capture the mind with a singular or narrow texture. I don’t know. What I am sure about is how we need to encourage musicians to be bolder with their work and inspire the listener. That is why I am hooked on Elder Island. They definitely have an identity and their own skin but they can easily splice genres and different aspects to create this bursting and wonderful environment. I love what they are doing and, whilst there is clear chemistry and excellent songwriting; the guys strike and shine because of the way they create this interesting and fulsome brew. It might sound like Elder Island throw tonnes in and it is a head-spinning experience but that is not the case.
There is subtlety in what they do. It is not about tossing everything into the blender and seeing what tastes good. There is expertise and professionalism. You can tell the guys spend a lot of time on what they do and there is huge consideration. I am a big fan of musicians who tease genres and can create their own universe. I think, to stand out in 2019, you need to be nimble and have a sense of mobility. Rather than be rigid and not experiment; artists have to be aware of what the market needs and how things are changing. A lot of the best from this year have struck the critical mind because of their words and a powerful projection but this is not necessarily the case for underground acts. Instead, the ones we are tipping for 2019 have this keen mind for cross-pollination. I have run a series recommending artists for 2019 and feel many are taking sound and pushing it to the limits. I come back to Elder Island and what they are doing right now. I am excited for their approaching album and know it will grab some fantastic reviews. I keep thinking about what they do with tones and genres and how they can bring in their own vibe. Rather than replicate the sounds of Bristol Trip-Hop – like so many have in the past – the band briefly nod to it and bring in other influences. I am looking at next year and seeing which artists will reign. I have indicated diversity and cross-pollination will take a bigger role for new artists but it is not as easy as that. I think Elder Island will be among the best of 2019 and, the fact they are releasing an album in February means they’ll make an early impact. Let me move onto Elder Island’s latest song, I Fold You.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ash Holdsworth
I have heard a few other songs from Elder Island but cleared my mind as I prepared to review their latest song, I Fold You. Unlike a lot of what we will hear on the band’s album; there is a sadness and sense of lost on their new single. We open with moody organ and this rather funeral atmosphere. There is not a big distraction in the background and the song has this great live-sounding feel to it. Rather than being too polished and cluttered; the band has created this track that is earthy, floating and ghostly. Elder Island are known for their mixing of Techno and Dream-Pop but here they are definitely on the softer end of the scale. The heroine talks about being out in the open and there being this bridge. It may seem like she is close to the hero but she is far away. Maybe the heroine is this ghost figure or maybe the scene symboilises a broken relationship and being separated. I like the imagery and how the song is given conviction and chills through the organ. One half of the mind looks at a church and somewhere quite stately whereas the other half is out in the wilderness, following the song. The lovers measure distance in the darkness, as it is told, and there are a lot of smart and original lines in the song. The entire song is quite slow-moving but that is not to say it lacks physicality and soulfulness. Rather than be bombarded with noise or restless energy; you get this track that hits the soul and get into the bones. It is hard to create a song with so much atmosphere and emotion without it being draining but Elder Island manage to do it. They are never too heavy and create this great balance throughout the song. The vocals become more charged and intense as the song goes on.
Starting from a somewhat gentle and brooding start; now we step into this quite bristling and stormy scene where the full pains of emotional break and disconnection are laid bare. It is easy to see signs of artists such as London Grammar and Adele in the vocals and compositions but the lyrics are a lot smarter and the song richer and more sophisticated. Beats start to come through and create this racing heartbeat. I feel the instruments represents part of the body and emotions. The organ is the soul and consciousness that is calming and looking for answers. The beats symbolise the heart and seem to be overtaking logic. Maybe there was a bad reason for love going cold but it seems the heroine cannot stay away. Perhaps there is too much at stake and it is difficult walking away from something so special. I love how the vocals twist and turn to match the emotion of the song. There is a lot of power and conviction coming from Elder Island and you can tell how meaningful the song is to them. Following it through, you get a repetition of the song’s lead coda – measuring distance in the dark – and it provides the song with an unofficial chorus and gravity. Vocals start to layer but the most effective burst is when the voice bubbles, echoes and has this choral effect. The band are always mobile and changeable and do not rely on cliché structures to get the most from their song. Rather than stick to worn paths, they create this always-moving song that gets you thinking. I wonder whether there is a current relationship at play and whether there is any way back. The guys have been through a lot and this is all coming out on the page. We hear a lot of dignity and grace in I Fold You and that balances with the rawness that comes from the front. The song gets busier and more atmospheric as it ends. It started with the somewhat sparse and roomy opening but gets more busy and intense towards the ending. Beats get stiffer and there are strings in the mix; synths play a part and we get a great blend of genres and decades. I love the song and think it is a great way to end the year. The band have a busy 2019 already and I am excited for them. I Fold You’s title suggests origami and emotional manipulation but there is heart and tenderness to be found. It is a complex track but one that reveals new layers and revelations with each listen. In a way, it is like that game we played as children where you’d fold paper in a structure and open up individual flaps – they reveal a message or something you have to do. New listeners will really enjoy the song and bond with the band. Make sure you buy their album is February and experience what they are all about – you can pre-order it now. I have only listened to I Fold You a few times but will keep going back and I am sure there will be fresh things coming to light. It is another triumphant for a brilliant and original band who are on the rise.
A lot of love and attention has been aimed the way of Elder Island. The Bristol band has not been around for ages but they have managed to establish themselves and released some fantastic singles. I am excited to see where they can and what they can achieve in 2019. I know their album, The Omnitone Collection, will be received well and it will contain the band’s knack of balancing sounds and genres with confidence. There is so much to recommend beyond the sonic element with Elder Island. Listen to the way they come together and how focused everything is. You can feel how tight they are and how much respect there is within the ranks. All of these elements fuse together to bring about this glorious and unique sound. I am fairly new to the band but will follow them into next year. I think they can influence a lot of other artists and are showing what can happen when you show some bravery. It is going to be interesting seeing what is favoured next year and which artists make an early break. I said early how there will be a split in expectation between the underground and mainstream and what is required. In terms of the new breed; many are looking for something interesting, more experimental and bold. Elder Island are just the band to get under the skin and stay in the memory. They are a brilliant force and get stronger with everything they release. When their album is released, we will get to see them on the road and bringing this material to the people. I am not sure what they have planned regarding locations but I hope they get to tour the U.K. quite extensively. I know they will play Bristol a lot and the local audiences will get to hear a growing band in their elements. Right now, as we head into 2019, I feel Elder Island will continue to progress and there will be fresh opportunities. I shall end things here but it has been great to discover this great band who already sound assured and focused. They know where they want to go but are open to new sounds and idea. There is a lot to love about Elder Island so make sure you get right behind them. They have had a great 2018 but next year will be…
PHOTO CREDIT: Will Pace
Follow Elder Island