Album Review: Elder — “Innate Passage”

Elder - Innate Passage

To steal a quote about another band from the late great DJ John Peel, listening to a new Elder album is always different and always the same. It may be familiar but there’s always something different to be found. Every album is its own unique journey. It may be easy to go “Ho hum, Innate Passage is yet another excellent Elder album,” but doing so ignores this is a phenomenal album.

Over the course of 16 years and now six full length albums, Elder keep refining their sound. Across the five songs on Innate Passage, Elder create hypnotic beauty with their brand of heavy music. Here’s a band where the members trust each other when one pushes the other into a new place. Nicholas DiSalvo and Michael Risberg’s guitars play off each other. Their riffs and shredding weave in and around seamlessly. It’s really easy to get lost in these songs to the point that it’s hard to differentiate between each song. That’s more of a feature than a bug. The band wants you to go on a trip, not five quick jaunts.

As always, Elder explore sounds meant to evoke hard rock of the 1970s. This isn’t a band slavishly copying another band or following the tenets of a particular genre though. For them, those sounds are tools instead of crutches. Sounds like squelching analog synths or motorik drumming become textural. They’re meant to surprise you when rather than being a part of a checklist. They may draw from the past but this is a thoroughly contemporary album.

Psych rock continues to be an obvious influence for the band on Innate Passage. Mood wins out over showy musicianship. Elder jam on songs to create a vibe. It’s obvious they can play their instruments with technical precision but they’re more interested in creating moods and atmosphere. It’s more interesting for them to explore the ebb and flow of a song and with each other than if they can play something technically complex. The way Elder plays is more like cooking. It’s about finding the right sound in the right quantity to concoct something interesting.

Since transplanting from New England to Berlin and the addition of drummer Georg Erdt, the band’s krautrock influences seem to be a little more pronounced. There’s a couple passages throughout the album where Erdt’s drumming and Jack Donovan’s bass just lock into a motorik groove. Popularized by Can’s Jaki Liebezeit and Neu!’s Klaus Dinger, motorik evokes the feeling of driving on a highway unfettered. Innate Passage, as a whole, plays as a stoner rock variation on the motorik sound. This is music meant to accompany all manner of trip.

Elder 2022
Image courtesy of Maren Michaelis Photography

Elder’s Innate Passage is yet again an excellent album. Here’s a band confident in its musicianship to create sonic landscapes uniquely their own. As always, they draw from a long history of hard rock sounds creating this album. The word passage evokes going through something or going from one place to another. This album is long, winding, and totally unconcerned how you get somewhere. It’s only interested in taking you someplace.


Innate Passage is available now on Stickman Records. For more information on Elder, visit their official website.

3 thoughts on “Album Review: Elder — “Innate Passage”

  1. Anonymous December 2, 2022 / 11:45 pm

    It’s been a long time since I’ve heard such a beautiful and well produced and mixed album. Elder’s Innate Passage is fantastic.

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