By Steph Eslake
Friendly Elephants is the new instrumental studio release from Hobart artist Alan Gogoll. Evoking visions of serene Tasmanian landscapes, this Indie-acoustic album will have any Tasmanian daydreaming about a drive up the East Coast, or a frolic through the fresh fields of the island’s country side.
‘Under the Bugs’ opens the album with woody guitar textures that provide an earthy and organic sound. A folk-like feel remains consistent through the following tracks, with gentle major motives and relaxed tempos weaving their way through every song.
‘Porcupine’s Picnic’ abandons basic musical functions of dynamics and climax, and replaces them with an almost meditative repetition, reminiscent of minimalist composer Philip Glass. Perhaps the only change of mood can be found in ‘Massive Mammal’, where an emphasis on the bass sounds of the lower strings indicate a slightly less innocent, country American spirit.
Gogoll’s appreciation of the guitar’s natural tones is comparable with that of Cary Lewincamp, although if you’re easily distracted by poor instrumental technique, I would be cautious when putting this album on your playlist. Gogoll’s playing has a tendency to sound overly ambitious, particularly in ‘Friendly Elephants’, where he struggles to maintain the tempo he sets for himself – and, disappointingly, plays with poorly tuned strings.
Gogoll’s frequent slapping of the instrument aims to bring percussive textures that, while may work live, compromise the recording with only the harsh sounds audible. Also disruptive to the calming mood are disproportionately loud twangs that accidentally erupt in the middle of an otherwise pleasant phrase.
Overall, Friendly Elephants does allow for a refreshing and contemplative experience – if you don’t listen too hard.
This review was originally published in Aphra Magazine 2013.