The first track on Pony Ride splays in all directions. Electronic drums patter on the left and the right. Acoustic guitars stretch across the frame like a spindly cradle, wefting and warping through eachother in curves of minor key. Cymbals, drones and incantatory improvisations rise out of the centre as if coaxed out of the warmth of ritual, urged to ascend by the massage of rhythm and dissonances, climbing higher and insatiably reaching for more. There are no beginnings or ends here; the music hovers in a half-state, translucently beckoned out of spiritual desire without ever fully becoming what it so patiently promises. There’s no explicit cultural affiliation here either. I hear inflections of Indian raga and European psychedelia, but nothing solid. Elephant House operate in inflections and implications; like scrapbooks detailing transcendent experiences, these tracks are rich in sensation and ambiguously light in comprehension, pulling together disparate accounts of inner awakening in a bid to identify the common thread between them.
Even individual instruments straddle the boundary between personal experience and the abetting forces of an external other: sometimes the curious teachings of folklore, sometimes the gestures and shapes of alternate forms of life. The synthesiser at the centre of “The Pearl” flickers like a live insect dipped in amber, twitching as the sap slowly sets, legs and body seemingly smeared as I peer through the viscous gloop, melodic in a manner that defies pure human tendency. Elsewhere, “Shuidiao Getou” diffuses a traditional Chinese folk melody into a soft, shuffling cloud of 80s dream pop, with a slow-motion calypso shuffle propped aloft by tides of guitar and synth – an inherit energy powdered into the seas of a pleasant half-sleep. What do we learn by threading these energies into eachother? As I float outward into the 10-minute title track at the end of the record, with synths in elegantly synchronised duet over crossroads of electronic bass loop, I wonder whether I’m asking the wrong question entirely. The album ends just as it begins: riding a hypnotic electronic music to the edges of curiosity, stretched outward in a state of zen-like acceptance, seeking heights of experience over depths of understanding. I don’t need to know why.