Initially I thought that reviewing this album might be a problem. Le-Thanh Ho sings in German, I don’t speak German. But what might be seen as a language barrier soon became an interesting connection for unable to engage with the lyrics for what they actually mean, I soon found myself concentrating instead on the vocals as an instrument, an embedded component of the music rather than something that sits above it to be judged separately. I then found myself appreciating the voice for itself rather than the end result; it’s alluring qualities, soothing aspects and emotive nature. Le-Thanh Ho might be singing about ordering fried chicken or her shopping list but disembodied from any lyrical meaning it became the most sensual sound imaginable and to outside ears the German Language has never been exactly the language of love. Well, it is now.
All this would only be possible if the music matched her voice’s seductive nature and it does, effortlessly, through creating only the most fragile of musical bubbles around it. Strings sweep, pianos gently cascade and drums seem only to signpost the idea of the flow of time through the song and a wonderful musical dynamic is created by guitars playing heavy chords that are then pushed away into the distance, sonorous and sombre, like distant thunder. The overall affect is to create an atmosphere of unresolved tension, a wave about to break or the moment before lightning strikes but frozen in time.
Gloriously understated and seemingly from an earlier time, this album wonderfully subverts the expectations of this neon, glossy world we now inhabit. Elephant comes from a different place, one seemingly of half-light and solitude, of empty rooms and fleeting glances, a genteel place, one that only exists in 19th century romance novels and black and white films. If it ever really existed at all, this album is your passport to it.