Interlacing jazz, electronic, and classical music into a patchwork of contemporary math- and post-rock, Taiwanese trio Elephant Gym are bringing their new album World to Canvas on 30 May.
Formed in 2012 in Kaohsiung City, Elephant Gym’s sound feeds off tension and unlikely contrasts. Pitchfork describes it “as close to jazz as rock: virtuosity not as a means of showing off, but approaching the sublime”. Their songs often find KT Chang as the lead vocalist, while her nimble, expressive bass style is a signature imprint of the band. Sibling Tell Chang brings lush guitars and occasionally keys, with Chia-Chin Tu’s elastic drumming providing a malleable anchor point between his bandmates’ funk-and-jazz chops.
The trio have four great albums under their belt. Following Angle (2014), Underwater (2018), and Dreams (2022), their enchanting fourth record World was released via Topshelf Records in December 2023. Commemorating their 10th anniversary as a band, it comprises new songs and re-worked material as they introduce new listeners to their wild fusion of styles. It finds the band joined by international and local collaborators, tapping the varied talents of Seiji Kameda (Tokyo Jihen) Shashaa Tirupati, ?te, YILE LIN, Hom ShenHao, and the Kaohsiung City Wind Orchestra.
Early single ‘Happy Prince’ eases us in with YILE LIN’s dainty guest vocals, supported by KT Chang’s feather-light bass line, before the track swirls towards the kind of wide-eyed, math-rock wonder that the band has become known for. In the next single – a re-work of their 2013 track ‘Ocean in the Night’ – Hom Shenhao reprises his striking vocals with new additions of brass and woodwinds. For us, though, it’s a deep cut that shines the brightest. Operating within the same kind of realm as Black Country, New Road’s latest music, the euphoric orchestral version of ‘Galaxy’ is nostalgic but experimental, childlike but complex, dreamlike but vivid. A thing of beautiful contrasts, it sums up what the band does best.
What’s clear through this bubbling and frenetic album, is that these are serious players. They’d have to be to produce music as intricate as this. But as Pitchfork rightly said, it never comes across as showing off; there’s heart and soul within the complexity. And that, right there, is a winning combination to take to the stage. We’re expecting a hell of a show on 30 May.