Elysian Fields

Dreams that Breathe Your Name

/diluvian; 2003/



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When Blacklisted Igor reviewed NYC cabaret band Ursa Minor, the music rang a bell but we couldn’t embody our thoughts. Now we can see crystal clear: it sounded like Elysian Fields.

Elysian Fields albums always leave me a dubious impression because they are good but you somehow feel that this band has the potential to record an outstanding album. It’s already the band’s third album (fourth if you take into account the lost second album**). Its title underlines a strange dreamy atmosphere and you get it right away. Down-tempo songs haunted by this heady warm voice echo exhausting hot summer nights when the heat constantly awakes you. 
The first three songs are heady late night cabaret pearls. ‘Stop the Sun’ starts with a usual dose of down-tempo dreamy atmosphere which brings into relief Jennifer Charles’ attractive voice singing dauntlessly ‘Reckless, I wanna weep, I wanna run, I wanna stop the sun...’ ‘Baby Get Lost’ carries on with the vocalist becoming mischievous while uttering ‘baby get lost’. Only ‘Timing is everything’ breaks this pace thanks to its rock rhythm but how can we not succumb to these few seconds when she whispers ‘get ready for my solo’?? Then, the album resumes its languid dreamy pace with ‘Drunk on Dark Sunshine’ endowed with sitars.
Even if the songs are good, they have already made such ones on their previous releases. Although ‘Live for the touch’, ‘Shooting Stars’, ‘Scratch’ and ‘Never Mind that Now’ are nice ballads providing you with the dreamy atmosphere the record title suggested, there is something which makes them sound main-stream from time to time. Well, good main-stream music though, reminding one of Frank Sinatra or Lee Hazlewood but they give the impression of being stuck in an unpleasant, oppressive place.
There is nevertheless the first three tracks and a piano-driven duet entitled ‘Passing through the stairs’ which surprisingly introduces a Nick Cave aspect to Elysian Fields’ universe. These two universes are not that far away but this song which is not unhealthy but definitely not sane really evokes NC’s poisonous duets in Murder Ballads. Strangely, this is the only ominous song here. ‘Shrinking Heads in the Sunset’ is somehow reminiscent of Morphine thanks to its roaming saxophone but never acquires the aforementioned song’s quality.

Dreams that breathe your name is my least favourite Elysian Fields album. If there is no bad moment, the great songs seem to be repetitions from their previous albums. The reason why I can’t help myself from being disappointed is because I’m convinced that if one day they encrust their music with a jazzy rhythmic section, they would make an impressive record, crossover between atmospheric indie-pop and vocalist jazz. Jennifer Charles has everything to become such a recognized jazz vocalist: sublime suave voice, charming looks, cryptic lyrics which people often interpret as sexual metaphors, which by the way comes together with the band being named after the paradise place where heroes and poets go when they die in Greek Mythology. There are definitely harbingers for such a thing to happen in the future, Oren Bloedow’s jazzy chords for one, but as Charles sings it: ‘Timing is everything’… Maybe next time.

** Here is what they say in their website about this lost album:
Radioactive/Universal owns the record, as they are the ones who paid for the recording. The tapes probably live in some vault at Universal. It is possible that nobody will ever get to hear this record, though some of the songs may one day be re-recorded, when legally possible.


/sept 1st 2003/