There is magic in Elder Island’s music and perhaps a little witchcraft. Trying to pin the Bristol trio’s sound down is pointless because the usual pop rules don’t apply. Textures matter as much as melodies. Genres bend and blend. Electronics rub shoulders with odd instruments. Katy Sargent sings as though casting a spell.
The Omnitone Collection, Elder Island’s extraordinary debut album, boasts ten tracks that are rich tapestries of tiny moments in time, but also sweeping soundtracks riven with ambition. They are songs to lose yourself in, to be swept away by, to send shivers up your spine.
Formed six years ago as an experiment-come-university hobby, Elder Island are singer and cellist Katy, bassist and beats maker Luke Thornton and guitarist and synth wizard David Havard. None hail from Bristol, but the city was what brought them together and its genre-mashing scene was what inspired them to start Elder Island.
The trio of Four Tet fans started out with jam sessions at home, adding weird percussion to Luke’s loops and stitching field recordings in to their soundscapey songs. What was supposed to be for fun suddenly got serious when, in 2014, a debut EP they stuck up on Soundcloud took off.
Two years later came a second EP, Seeds In Sand, a more structured, at times dancey five tracks that found fans in Beats 1’s Zane Lowe and Tom Robinson and Radio 1’s Huw Stephens. Festivals came calling. The band sold out a headline tour. On Spotify in particular, their streams started to spiral.
“Production-wise, Seeds In Sand was where we found out feet,” says Dave. “The songs were more complex and coherent and less ambient. The final song, Key One, was the most upbeat we’d ever been and that became for our cue for the album. Live, it always the song that started the dancing.”