Elf Power, with Lazy Horse and the Missing Files

Before amorphous Canadian musical collectives like Broken Social Scene rose to prominence (in certain circles, anyway) with forever-changing rosters and deadly pop hooks veining a mountain of free-form jamming, a tribe of wayward Americans known as Elephant 6 was already there. The founding troika of bands that made up Elephant 6 were scattered across the country, but all comprised at least in part of graduates of Ruston High School in north Louisiana; it included oddballs Neutral Milk Hotel, power-pop scholars the Apples (in Stereo) and the dreamlike Olivia Tremor Control. Taken together, Elephant 6 brought lysergic rays of Zombies and Beach Boys sunshine to a musical climate clouded over by grunge. Its ranks swelled quickly, taking an especially firm hold in Athens, where groups like Of Montreal and Elf Power prospered, surviving into the present day — and influencing scores of indie-rock latecomers — as their predecessors fell by the wayside.

Elf Power, assorted troubadours centered around founder Andrew Rieger, established its bona fides on albums like 1997's When the Red King Comes and 1999's A Dream in Sound, records that laid the astral foundations of Rieger's singular psychedelic universe. Save an intriguing diversion to T. Rex-style power-boogie on 2004's Walking With the Beggar Boys, he hasn't changed Elf Power's game plan much since then, or needed to; though it got a mixed review from Pitchfork (5.9), last month's In a Cave shows Krieger remains as restless as ever, utilizing Elf Power hallmarks like oddball instrumentation (something called a "tape organ") and shoestring recording techniques to put his warped signature on harmonically lush pop ("Paralyzed"), fuzz-strewn chuggers ("Spiral Stairs") and inner/outer-space drone ("Window to Mars") alike.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray