"Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait" -Longfellow

Thursday, January 27, 2011

White Elefant releases "El Infante" EP

White Elefant is one of those rarest of San Antonio bands that A) sounds from San Antonio without sounding bound to San Antonio and B) isn't readily connectible to some sort of  'scene' (i.e. balding DJs  with an ear for little but Friday night booty, crap metal, tepid and self-aggrandizing indie-pop/rockers).  Josh Mathis is the singer, songwriter and lead creative force behind White Elefant, a band that has been growing and evolving in a patient and natural manner since 2006.  Mathis' vision of songcraft is one of the most refreshing that I have ever encountered; an innocent approach that lets the art realize itself in a stream of consciousness fashion that achieves a seemingly impossible precision.  El Infante is White Elefant's first real recorded release and it's a perfect combination of an almost deadpan style, that makes their live shows feel so refreshingly entrancingly honest, and just the right amount of studio richness.  Kudos are certainly to be given to mixer/master-er Dave Novak of Toastworks Productions for staying out of this band's way while helping them banish any but the most aesthetically endearing mediocrities.

Opener "We Don't Stare" was born from a wandering acoustic jam that Mathis used to play at gigs while his band members grabbed a beer or used the facilities (Mathis never seems to succumb fully to the fact that these shows happen at places of debauchery and consumption).  The song has developed into a kind of anthem for the band itself, musically and lyrically expressing an alienation and restlessness that comes across alternately as a source of weakness and of confidence.  The five song EP's monstrous and sneering second track, "Insult to Injury", is the release's sharpest and most perfect moment.  Play this song incredibly loud with the bass up high and you will feel like you are hearing something startlingly new and simple, while somehow left with the unshakable notion that you've been here before... and things are more complicated than they seem.  The song surges in and out like panicked breaths, towers like a hesitant giant painfully aware of its own crushing step and deals with loneliness and self-professed holiness as artifacts of a timid emotional state.  "Warning Shot", one of the band's newest songs, is well placed at the middle of the EP as it provides a moment for reflecting in the uncluttered spaces between its bluesy vamping swagger.  A song that shows versatility and attitude, "Warning Shot" is followed by the best example of pure pop-rock songwriting in White Elefant's canon: "Safety in Numbers".  Seeming to be written from a distant vantage point of post-apocalyptic wisdom, "Safety in Numbers" is a remark on all we go through and all that we might be willing to put ourselves through... and for what?  "After all the time we've wasted and after all the lights stop spinning and after all their hands stop reaching out because after all, nobody's winning"... these lines perfectly express the shrugging acceptance of this beautiful song, with just enough distortion and pounding to remind you that it was, in fact, raised in a sweltering hot garage.

Rounding out this set of songs, which represent several different eras in White Elefant's history, is the grunge-country toe-tapper "I'll Make It Up to You".  This song is one that essentially belongs to bassist Fil Grady and drummer W.J. Robinson. The song bounces casually upon cymbals and rough low pulses before ending abruptly, confronting the listener with the reality of a sudden silence... always a welcome challenge at the end of a neat and profound statement of artistic purpose.

listen/download: White Elefant - We Don't Stare

You can (and really, really should) buy this EP on itunes.  Additionally, you can stream "El Infante" in its entirety at the band's Myspace page (where you'll also find info on upcoming shows).

AND... here's a link to another piece about Mighty Whitey LeFant, written by Feli and I for Local Aesthetic SA.

No comments: