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With cinematic melodies, surf guitar, spy soundtracks, Appalachian fiddling, lush string arrangements, knee-slapping banjo, country ballads, eastern modes, 4-part vocal harmonies, Mariachi flair and a heavy jazz influence, the new Japonize Elephants album is an inimitable take on the modern American experience. Songs about space travel, Publisher’s Clearing House, pirates, busses, whiskey, and dancing in the fast lane intermingle with instrumental numbers showcasing highly developed melodic and harmonic vocabularies. The sound is twisted and ambitious yet instantly recognizable, the result of nearly 20 years of collaborative experimentation.
When not performing with Radio Lab, Beats Antique, Donovan, Aaron Freeman (Ween), Feist, or John Vanderslice, the members of Japonize Elephants are hard at work conjuring an ensemble at once absurd and profound. Influences merge and diverge—the Stanley Brothers meet Zappa, the tenor sax meets the glockenspiel... and invite junk percussion, vibraphone, accordion, guitar, bass, flute, saxophones, trumpet, violin, banjo, and vocals to the fiesta. The Elephants’ talent runs as deep as the group’s instrumentation is diverse, steeped in the band’s long history and journey from Bloomington, Indiana to the coasts.
“Listening to The Japonize Elephants is like being at a supersonic hillbilly hoedown that has mysteriously been transplanted into a Transylvanian cartoon,” says the Denver Post. Blink and you’ll think you’re back in the orchestra of a French circus, with Mingus and Willie Nelson sitting in.