Sunday 5 May 2024

Elephant Stone & Karma Sheen - A night of Sitar heavy Psychedelia at The Lexington London May 3rd 2024

Friday night, saw the triumphant return of the Montreal based Elephant Stone to London to treat a packed out Lexington to their very own emotive and exotic brand of Eastern-tinged Psychedelia, all thanks to the excellent Bad Vibrations Promotions. We've followed band frontman, Sitar maestro Rishi Dhir since we first saw him and guitarist Robbie MacArthur in their previous incarnation, The High Dials at the Metro Club in London way back in 2004 and were there at Elephant Stone's London unveiling, here at the Lexington in 2011. Then there was a stunnng show by Rishi's side-project MIEN at the Moth Club too - a superb band featuring Alex Maas from The Black Angels and Tom Furse of The Horrors. All of this, not to mention Rishi's guest appearances with some of our favourite bands such as The Soundtrack of Our Lives and The Brian Jonestown Massacre for example, means he has achieved an almost godlike status in the Retro Man Blog household! 

This was the last night of the short U.K. leg of a European tour mainly to promote their excellent new album "Back Into The Dream" which is almost nailed on as album of the year already and it's only just into May. However, for me the only downside with the record (as excellent as it is), was that I thought it lacked enough of Rishi's trademark Sitar - concentrating instead on atmospheric layers of guitars and keyboards. However, no such worries for the gig tonight - Rishi takes the stage and sits cross-legged on his elephant blanket with Sitar very much present and opens with a raga that leads into the brilliant "Heavy Moon". Robbie's guitar playing is immense, coaxing transcendental sounds and textures from his array of foot pedals - just sublime, but when it comes down to it he is also a master of a damn catchy riff, the kind that sticks in your head for days after. Drummer Miles Dupire-Gagnon and the multi-instrumentalist Jason Kent, who handles keyboards, guitar, bass and backing vocals are both excellent and help to bring the often intricate songs on record to life and there's a nice chemistry between all four members.

It's a superb set and my personal highlights included The Who-like mini-Rock-opera "The Imajinary Everybody Nameless In The World" which condenses "Tommy", "Quadrophenia" and "A Quick One" into one fantastic, mind-bending eight minute masterpiece and Rishi's bass is worthy of The Ox himself. With a lot of the emphasis on Rishi's sitar playing, it's easy to overlook just what a fantastic bassist he is and this musical tour-de-force proves it. There's even another little nod to The Who with a sneaky reference to "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand" in the fantastic "Going Underground". I was blown away by a superb medley of the Sitar led groove of "Sally Goes Round The Sun" from their self-titled album which snakes into "Darker Time Darker Space", "The Court and Jury" and "Land of The Dead" from the excellent "Hollow" LP. The Teenage Fanclub and Big Star influence, which first became apparent on the 2012 track "Hold Onto Yr Soul", is still present on the latest album with the heart-breakingly gorgeous "On Our Own" which tonight is absolutely sublime. Another one of my highlights was the French language "La Fusée du Chagrin" which rockets along at some pace, powered by a driving bassline and some stunning duelling guitar between Robbie and Jason. There's so much to take in during the eclectic set, there are strains of the melancholic Baroque sound of The Left Banke, the pastoral melodies of The Zombies "Odessey & Oracle", 60's Psychedelia and Fuzzed up Garage Rock Nuggets. But there's also the World Music element along with the British 90's Indie Rock, Shoegaze and Dream Pop movements - In fact, Elephant Stone could have an album in pretty much any genre of your record collection. 

I have to mention the support act Karma Sheen, who were the perfect warm-up to Elephant Stone, an eye-catchingly colourful and exotic mash-up of King Khan & The Shrines and Jimi Hendrix with their groove laden Hindustani infused Prog-Psychedelia. Led by the charismatic frontman Sameer Khan who alternates between some wicked guitar playing and an Indian Selecta Harmonium, their danceable, hypnotic songs went down a storm with the crowd. They also have an impressive multi-instrumentalist in their ranks who played a small scale sitar like a guitar along with keyboards and theremin. Definitely a band to keep an eye on and I'd certainly recommend catching them play live if you get chance - certainly a joyful and uplifting experience. 

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