archive review originally posted on the losing today website c. 2002
Christmas morning arrived four months early at our gaff where among the parcels we found lurking not one, but three new releases from Ohio based label Elephant Stone, all top drawer wig flipping gear from the altar of the psychedelic groove, the first of which to catch our ‘all things kaleidoscopic’ radar being by the hopelessly wonderful Dora Flood from San Francisco.
All you space cadets out there better get ready to don your helmets because ‘Highlands’ (the ensembles fourth long player) is a consuming cosmic star hop of some measure. Lushly filled out with delicate keyboard washes and treated with the kind of acidic quotient as to make you high just being in the same room, ‘Highlands’ depicts a band who despite their obvious late 60’s psychedelic tresses and cosmically drenched dynamic are clever enough not to get easily trapped in the normally airless fragile zones of what passes for dream / space rock preferring instead to take a similar approach as the like minded souls such as the Eskimos, Epicycle and Colin Lloyd Tucker (no better evidenced than by the glazed English psychedelia of the shimmer like ‘Throwing Wishes’ with its dreamscaped moments nodding to Air’s ‘Moon Safari’ and the delightful Doors-esque trail off at the finale) by shifting their sound base to and forth so that what you essentially get are teasing pop morsels put through the fluorescent blender emerging on the other side starry eyed enough to alert the Nuggets brigade and yet not so deeply immersed in that mindset so as to leave the more casual listener standing on the launch pad.
From the moment ‘Stargazing’, (the albums opening salvo), comes into view with its dozing rustic interplanetary shuffle like waltz focusing somewhere like a station stop between a crispier melodic based Spacemen 3 and the Earlies, you are caught in the glare like wildlife in the headlights, fixed, entranced and blinded. The ghostly ‘Phantasm’ combines tantalising West Coast reference points and twists them with the needling jangle of early Byrds dipping occasionally into the surreal realms of Barrett’s Floyd which is similarly deployed on the tragic sounding ‘Echoes’ though replacing Floyd with late 60’s era Bowie and classic Mock Turtles. Then there’s the almost soulful cocktail laced half awake down tempo icicle chill of the softly spangled ‘Experimental Phase’ with its smouldering cascade of ‘Flowers’-esque Will Sergeant riffs while ‘Where you belong’ has that off centred vibe as though Marc Bolan was fronting some hybrid Move / Wizard blueprint.
For me personally though the albums centrepiece has to be the lazy eyed ‘Two passing shadows’ with its evocative fluffy galactic teen bubblegum pop demeanour, a kind of shyly tender opiated Spiritualized spiralling in the ethereal folds of Lennon’s ‘Number 9 dream’ which edges the ticker tape just ahead of the wintry melancholic hue of the darkly longing ‘For a Moment’ and the silent grandeur of the near epic elegiac gloss of the haunting album closer ‘Home’. Quite simply unnervingly breathless.