Elijah McLaughlin Ensemble


The artistic well around Chicago’s Elijah McLaughlin Ensemble proves to be as deep as ever as the band rounds into their third record. Like the record before it, the album balances acrobatic bouts of acoustic string work with pieces that push far outside of the typical folk-blues idiom. Straddling Appalachian folk and Neo-classical works, III also wades into the reverberating gauze that glows around bands like SUSS or Nashville Ambient Ensemble. While the bulk of the material is packed onto the first side of the album, stylistically the album splits between “Tributary” and “Point of Departure.” The first portion retains the movement and mentality of the last record, but as the sun rises on the latter half there’s a shift towards something more nebulous. A dawn light begins to filter through the trees shrouding the record in emerald hues.

“Point of Departure” begins the slip into serenity. The haze becomes more than just a frame, it seeps into the forefront. McLaughlin and his ensemble then begin to play with the shade of the gauze as the record progresses, moving towards its gorgeous, 18+ minute finale in “Coloring of Lake/Sky” which breaks through the haze to let the ensemble light up a tempest of sound — rolling pianos, gusts of upright bass, and McLaughlin’s paced strums pushing the song high up into the atmosphere, arcing into the sunlight that was begging to break into the record previously. The last few records have certainly not lacked virtuosity, but on III, McLaughlin’s ensemble have reached a breathtaking new peak.

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