Whether by design or not, it’s appropriate that Dhir’s second album is the self-titled one; at the very least, it provides a much clearer answer to the essential question of what he’s out to accomplish with Elephant Stone than it’s predecessor did. Dhir’s sitar is even more of a constant, but it’s used primarily to richen his psych rock arrangements’ tones than to simply replace guitar leads. Opener “Setting Sun” recalls “Don’t Fear the Reaper” with breezed-out underlying reverb – and hey look, lyrics about new beginnings too (“A setting sun is not an ending”, “rebirth to give new life”).
With the exception of the penultimate track “The Sea of Your Mind”, a nine-minute sitar-and-percussion attack and incidentally one of the album’s most impressive, the 10 tracks of Elephant Stone are concise, pop song-length statements that more clearly reflect Dhir’s vision – one he’s learning how to bring to life.
The record as a whole has a distinct direction, but there are two divisible sections: pre- and post-sitar. Elephant Stone opens with “Setting Sun” and, the album’s first single, “Heavy Moon,” a pair of songs that while still spiritually inspired, definitely adopt a more rock quality. Guitarist Gabriel Lambert embraces this thoroughly on “Setting Sun,” ripping out some killer riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Oasis album.
“A Silent Moment” is the track that shakes things up a bit. Arriving five songs into the album, this is the first that has a distinct hindi-pop feel. There is something incredibly cinematic about this song, with the rich and cascading sitar and guitar lines hovering above the guttural chants of guest artist Vinay Bhide, causing a simultaneously stimulating and relaxing moment. This five-minute nugget of a song is what Elephant Stone is all about—finding the beauty in a perfectly psychedelic mix of traditional Indian music and ’60s-inspired pop-rock.
The second half of the album gives a bit more free rein to the sitar with tracks “Sally Go Round The Sun” and “The Sea Of Your Mind” both offering up extended instrumentals in which singer and sitar player Rishi Dhir is able to showcase his chops. The four-minute trippy jam session at the end of “The Sea Of Your Mind” can get a little overwhelming, but in true ’60s fashion, if you just zone out and let your mind wander, you will get through it relatively unscathed.
Album closer “The Sacred Sound” provides a wonderful relief after “The Sea Of Your Mind,” though it is probably the track that is the least cohesive with the rest of the album. There are some very Sondre Lerche-reminiscent strings going on that, while beautiful, head in a different direction—more orchestral and less acid house. But Dhir’s muted, watery vocals guide the song back on track.
Dhir told CMJ last year that he didn’t want the sound to be “one-dimensional,” and if that was the ultimate goal, he met it. Elephant Stone is a thoughtful and concise album that showcases not only precise musicianship from all members of the band but a distinct growth in songwriting.