The sitar was popularised in the 1960s by George Harrison who featured it on two Beatles albums. The instrument then began to make an appearance in other popular songs at the time, but never became a permanent fixture within popular bands.
But now, for Canadian band Elephant Stone, the sitar is a fundamental part of their music and style.
On the opening track of their third album The Three Poisons, the sitar’s distinctive sound is instantly recognisable, adding its psychedelic, and at times magical, sound to the track ‘Motherless Child (Love’s Not for War)’. The song is smooth and funky, yet dark and is a strong opening track for the album. The sitar adds another layer to the song that wouldn’t usually be there.
Elephant Stone consists of Rishi Dhir (vocals, bass and sitar), Miles Dupire (drums and backing vocals) and Gabriel Lambert (guitar and backing vocals). Front man, Rishi, is an internationally renowned musician and has recorded, performed and toured with the likes of Beck and The Horrors.
The band, which was conceived by Rishi in 2009, fuses sitar drones with 90s indie influences in The Three Poisons. The indie influence in their new album comes as a result of Rishi’s brother-in-law discovering an abandoned record collection in 2013 and letting Rishi take his pick of the stock pile.
According to Rishi the collection included indie greats like, Echo & The Bunnymen, Happy Mondays, Spacemen 3, The Stone Roses and Ride.
Rishi was inspired by these old records and it clearly shows in his band’s newest album. Rishi said of working on The Three Poisons: “The grooves were groovier, the sonics rumbled heavier, and the songs were connecting to something bigger. I started to reflect on that abandoned record collection I inherited and in that moment I heard the groove of the Mondays, the darkness of Echo, the jangle of Ride, but what I truly heard and felt coming together in this new batch of songs was, and is, unequivocally the sound of Elephant Stone.”
Rishi’s assessment of his own band is fairly accurate, but despite all these comparisons Elephant Stone are also completely unique with their catchy lyrics, sitar solos and “hindie-psych” style.
The album’s fifth track ‘Wayward Son’ is clearly inspired by 90s indie and is strongly reminiscent of The Stone Roses. This is my favourite song on the album; it gave me a strong sense of nostalgia, but the sitar gives a fresh twist to the well-known indie genre.
The female backing vocals in songs like ‘Knock You From Yr Mountain’ and ‘All Is Burning’ also add a bit of soul to the band’s style. The mix of genres and emotive lyrics make this a really interesting album.
It is a pity there are not more rock influenced songs like the opening track of the album, which is definitely worth listening to. The rest of the album gets slower, darker and gentler; but it is still quite entrancing.
Fans of indie bands like The Stone Roses or Echo & the Bunnymen will likely find this album refreshing and enjoyable.
Elephant Stone has just finished their European tour and will be releasing The Three Poisons in the UK and Ireland on 27 October through Hidden Pony Records.