Elias Krell: As Eli
Independent – 2017
Elias Krell is a German-born queer and trans Latinx, singer-songwriter who, based variously in Vermont and New York, holds a PhD in performance studies, writes for academic journals and sings in Spanish and English. Krell draws on North and South American pop and folk, bebop and gypsy jazz, street and classical music, all of which makes for this engaging and delightful album.
As Eli opens with the dreamy and airy More Than You Gained, a cello intro giving way to Krell’s soft and tender vocal floating across the melody, the instrumentation gradually filling out as the song unfolds. It’s off them to old time New Orleans meets Bavaria vaudeville territory with the dancing clarinet, sax, brushed drums and glockenspiel tinkles of Too Old For You before shifting again to the simple strummed guitar and piano sprinkled folksy pop of the break up All Of Us (Is Gone Now).
There’s two covers, the first of which is a languidly tumbling version of Under My Umbrella by Chip Taylor and Billy Vera, Krell’s voice sliding across the scales in a sound and manner reminiscent of Art Garfunkel (as indeed is Say Hello). The second, accompanied by Spanish guitar, is Cancion de las Simples Cosas, an Argentinean ballad by Costa Rican-born Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, a regular, both in person and in song, in Pedro Almodovar’s films.
The other nine numbers are all Krell originals, reflecting the album’s musical diversity, ranging as they do from the Latin-shaded Barenaked Ladies pop of Cosmic Strings and the vocal quivering, falsetto-soaring gentle calypso pulse of Call Me Crazy to the Spanish sang fingerpicked Horizonte and the ukulele accompanied hula cum 60s crewcut pop feel of High School Boy.
The ukulele’s there again for the slow waltzing Your Flower, while the brief glockenspiel coloured fleeting relationship I Goodbye has a definite music box quality and, by way of another contrast, there’s a cowboy campfire trot to Same Old Song. It ends with a 65-second martial beat drums reprise of All Of Us, leading us off down the road in his wake as it fades into the distance. Unquestionably one of the summer’s brightest gems.