Amelia Rivas and Christian Pinchbeck don’t just sing about feverish, frayed and fractured romances – in the three years since forming Elephant, they’ve been living one.
It’s fitting that Sky Swimming, their debut full length release is a seductive, night time delight of an album. After all, it was in the twilight hours of a May morning three years ago that Pontefract native Amelia Rivas and Bristolian Christian Pinchbeck met at a house party and in alcohol-soaked all-nighter sessions that Sky Swimming was written.
A fibrous collection of songs about relationships – their own included, which broke down during the making of the album – hazy memories, twisted dreams, the metaphysical bleeding in to the physical – Sky Swimming – all trilling keyboards, swooping melodies, broken hip hop beats, looped strings and Amelia’s uniquely curvy vocals – that makes you want to clamp your headphones tighter on your ears, letting you swim in its every detail and emotion. Influenced by everything from Toro Y Moi to composer Angelo Badalamenti, Everything But The Girl to rap originators Arrested Development and Joe Meek’s productions, it’s an intensely varied listen.
“The first time we worked together, I went round to his house in Peckham and didn’t leave for 3 days. I barely knew him,” Amelia remembers. “She turned up with some £10 Casio she bought from a charity shop in France and the whole demo EP was made on that,” recalls Christian. Elephant have grown beyond their lo-fi roots since then, with Andy Dragazis being drafted in on co-production duties, while retaining the emotional rawness of those early songs. Tracks vary from psyche-delving ballads about growing up – Torn Tongues and Skyscraper (“I want to understand what’s wrong with my brain,” Rivas laughs), to the thrilling pop of Elusive Youth, a eulogy to a friend who “wears a city crown”, to the everyday trials of being young and poor in London (see Ants about Amelia’s crumbling Tooting bedsit and TV Dinner, a paean to rubbish telly and cheap booze) and the heartbreaking title track Sky Swimming written in the eye storm of their relationship meltdown with the refrain “do your eyes turn blue before you cry, I see the blue in you”.
With winning appearances at Primavera and Eurosonic festivals behind them, not to mention support slots with cult hero Matthew E White, under their belts, Elephant have in Sky Swimming one of the year’s most seductive sounds. . “I flew to the moon to mirror you” sings Amelia on album closer Shapeshifter, with the sort raw melancholy that could only be cribbed from a Blue Valentine romance. “I saw the future.” It should be a very bright future ahead for Elephant indeed.