Elf Power Realize A Dream In Sound Via New Album

Experimental pop act in Elephant 6 collective counts fellow Athens, Ga., resident/R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe as fan.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Elf Power lead singer Andrew Reiger isn't the only

singer boasting about his band and its new album these days.

One of music's biggest personalities, most influential voices and

best-known rock musicians, Michael Stipe has been talking the band up to

the media and who knows where else. When you come from this town, as Elf

Power does, you can't get a better endorsement.

"It's nice to hear that they like what we're doing because we respect

their music, of course," the soft-spoken, casually-dressed Reiger, 26,

said between bites of tofu as he sat in The Grit, a Southern-style

vegetarian restaurant owned by R.E.M. singer Stipe.

The charismatic vocalist for R.E.M. grew out of the same Athens music

scene as Elf Power, whose fourth album, A Dream in Sound, shows

a continued evolution in the band's experimental pop sound.

A Dream in Sound has more in common with the '60s fuzz-toned

pop-rock of the Kinks or the polyphonic compositions of Beach Boys

mastermind Brian Wilson than it does with R.E.M.'s jangly guitar-rock.

In that way, Elf Power fits in comfortably with their fellow artists at

the Elephant 6 Recording Company.

More of a collective than an actual record label (although the name shows

up on many of the bands' albums), the Elephant 6 is a group of mostly

Athens-based musicians who share common musical and artistic interests.

It includes such critically acclaimed bands as Olivia Tremor Control,

the Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel.

"I think we're all trying to make timeless music," Olivia Tremor Control

singer/guitarist Bill Doss said recently, describing the Elephant 6.

"Everybody [in the collective] is real supportive and wants to help,"

said Dottie Alexander, one of Reiger's roommates and multi-instrumentalist

for another Elephant 6-affiliate. "I can't imagine playing music in any

other kind of environment."

True to Elf Power's Elephant 6 connection, the eclectic A Dream in

Sound meshes the Appalachian folk leanings of Neutral Milk Hotel

with an unadulterated pop flair on vaguely psychedelic, hook-filled

overtures such as "Olde Tyme Waves"

(RealAudio excerpt) and "Jane." Elf Power's members -- Reiger, Laura

Carter, Bryan Helium and Aaron Wegelin -- met at the University of

Georgia in Athens. Their previous album, When the Red King Comes,

was a concept record that created a medieval fantasy world and set it to

a soundtrack of '60s-style psychedelic pop.

For A Dream in Sound, Reiger's band reaches for a slightly more

conventional approach.

"When we wrote the group of songs for [When the Red King Comes],

it was with the concept in mind," Reiger said. "This time I decided not

to do that. It wasn't really going intentionally in the opposite

direction -- it just happened. I realized I had five or six songs and

there was no concept."

Reiger believes the lack of conceptual boundaries helped make the new

album more accessible than its predecessor.

"I think it made me a little more free to write about more real emotions,"

Reiger said. "Not that [Red King] songs weren't about real emotional

things, but they were through the guise of a story. Some of the songs on

this record, it's a little easier to tell what's being said. They're a

little more honest lyrically."

A Dream in Sound was recorded with producer Dave Friedman (Mercury

Rev, Flaming Lips) in the small town of Fredonia, N.Y., marking the first

time Elf Power has recorded in a real studio and with an outside producer.

"We'd always recorded at home before, although his studio's in a house,

so it didn't seem like a sterile environment by any means," Reiger said.

"We lived in the studio, which was out in the middle of nowhere in

upstate New York.

"[Friedman] had all these great instruments like slide guitars and all

these great old keyboards that we had never had a chance to use. So that,

combined with his knowledge and expertise, definitely put a different

stamp on it."

On tracks such as the atmospheric "Will My Feet Still Carry Me Home"

(RealAudio excerpt), the loping "Willowy Man"

(RealAudio excerpt) and the funereal dirge "Nobel Experiment," this stamp is evident, as improbable instruments (melodica, woodwinds, zanzithophone) float into the mix and the band incorporates them seamlessly into sturdy songs.

Unlike Red King, the new album doesn't deal with a cast of fictitious characters or an elaborate fantasy world. But Reiger is still confident that A Dream in Sound can be an escape from the dreariness of everyday life.

"If you're bored in a class or at your job, it's fun to create a little fantasy in your mind," Reiger said. "It's sometimes more exciting than the real world."