December 16, 2005

Elliott "Photorecording"

It's always disheartening when a good band dies in obscurity. It's one thing when a band makes an overwhelmingly amazing record that no one except a few people will hear, but to make a record that definitely could have appealed to a wider audience yet goes unheard except by a select few? Man, that's not just frustrating, that's just downright depressing. And so it was with Louisville's Elliott, who released their masterpiece Song in the Air in 2003, then quietly called it a day. For those who loved the band's epic soundscapes and melancholy melodies, this loss was especially painful, as Elliott's potential for wider success and recognition seemed assured.

After playing their final show, the band went into a recording studio and recorded their setlist live to tape, in hopes of capturing the energy of the band's live performance. This live set constitutes one half Elliott's farewell record, Photorecording. The seven-song set is an extremely tight performance; though the set is extremely brief, it's still a staggeringly beautiful set. The setlist contains their better moments, including "Drive Onto Me," "Blessed By Your Ghost" and "Shallow Like Your Breath." The songs don't differ too much from the previously released versions, except for one notable difference: passion. Elliott live had passion, and these songs definitely capture that live energy.

The other half of Photorecording consists of demo material, compilation tracks, and unreleased material. If it's true that you can tell the quality of a band by the material it rejects or neglects, then the songs found here prove that Elliott's albums were not merely glossed over in studio production. These songs aren't necessarily rejected outtakes inasmuch as they are alternate views on what the final songs would be; though "Bleed in Breathe Out," "Believe," and "Carry On" are different yet similar than the final versions, these songs do capture Elliott's studio experimentation. Perhaps the most interesting of these songs is "Drive," a dance remix version of "Drive Onto Me" that appeared in 2004. Even though an ethereal-minded band like Elliott might seem an unlikely contender for a dance remix, this song works surprisingly well; heck, it even shows that the band could have prettied up their sound for more mainstream success, and that the crossover might not have been as unlikely as one might have expected.

Also included with Photorecording is a DVD that contains a brief tour documentary of the band's last few dates, with plenty of live shots from their New York performance. This is fascinating watching, especially when the band talks about their reasons for splitting up, but it's not completely revelatory. It just shows a band having fun as they prepare to call it a day.

For a final document, Photorecording serves its purpose quite well. It captures the magic of Elliott the live band, and it wraps up any loose ends in terms of previously unreleased material and compilation tracks. That it flows together quite seamlessly is an additional bonus, too. Elliott was a great band, and it's sad that the world never had a chance to fully appreciate them. Listening to Photorecording will inform you of what the world's missed.

---Joseph Kyle

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