Spiral Joy Band - Elvehjem

LP Edition of 300. Download code included in jacket. BANDCAMP


Recorded in Madison Wisconsin a year after In The River (FTR 654), the latest record from this amazing trio (Troy Schafer, Patrick Best, Mikel Dimmick) breaks a bit with Spiral Joy’s drone-dominant tradition. There is a crackling, noise energy curtain surrounding much of the playing here that makes me remember the sound of the Richmond VA trio, Pelt, from whom Spiral Joy Band draw specific inspiration (as well as two members.) 

The listed instruments are bowed gong, gong, bowed bowls, electric guitar, bowed materials amplified & acoustic, mouthpiece and effects, modified zither. So yeah, there is still a patchwork of drones at the heart of Elvehjem, but there is little in the way of uninterrupted flow. The music on this one is a cascade of sound events with a feel almost more in line with the less antic inventions of Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza than anything inside the “rock” realm.

But there has often been a certain rockist element lurking inside Spiral Joy Band’s music (which supplanted the overt hayseed elements of their original iteration) and the direction and manner of their clangor here has the weight of rock rather than something more ephemeral. The two sides are presented as discreet pieces — “Shore” and “Shine” — but they run together seamlessly, both displaying surface pocks and tremors with a pride usually reserved for magic tricks. The drones are often created with a searing metallic edge, and their spiky protuberances brook no guff. If that ain’t rock, at least attitudinally, I’ll eat your fucking hat.

In the meantime, Elvehjem, is a stone gas to listen to. And, by the way, the name is taken from a famous Wisconsin biochemist, and is not meant as a mean commentary on Orlando Bloom’s obsession with the Dave Matthews Band. Although that would be warranted as well. 

Dig in!

-Byron Coley, 2023

Dusted Magazine Review – Bill Meyer