Elephant Stone frontman Rishi Dhir has been a frequently outsourced sitar player amongst bands of upper-middle prominence for years. He recorded and toured with the likes of Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Horrors before launching his own project in 2009 for which he’s responsible for vocals, sitar, and bass. His band name is a reference to both the song by the Stone Roses and a literal stone that Dhir owns: a statue of the Hindu god of new beginnings, Ganesh. He describes his band’s sound as – wait for it – “Hindie rock”.
On their Polaris long-listed debut, 2009′s The Seven Seas, Dhir set out to incorporate the sitar into shoegaze and indie pop in a seamless way that would devalue neither his instrument nor songs. It worked, at least when he committed to it, but there were moments where it would noticeably shield itself with either heavy sitar droning and noodling or with songs like “Bombs Bomb Away” that obviously had no place for it at all. While never boring, The Seven Seas also wasn’t necessarily convincing that “Hindie rock” was, or should be, an actual thing. Elephant Stone responds to this directly.
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.
Essential Tracks: “A Silent Moment”, “The Sea of Your Mind”