Elsen Price’s phantasmagorical world of soundscapes

Elsen Price
The Life Long Day Dreamer
Live at Johnston Street Jazz
Rippa Recordings, 2020

This solo double CD set by Sydney bassist Elsen Price takes the bass out of the background and right into the spotlight. Recorded at an improvised two-hour long live-stream performance at Johnston Street Jazz in Sydney’s Annandale during COVID-19 lockdown, the album showcases Elsen’s ability to create a phantasmagorical world of soundscapes.

Playing double bass and electric bass, this virtuosic young musician invites us to join him as he rides the rivers, enters the woods, explores luminescent caverns and encounters freakish bees (buzzing included) in what could easily be categorised as eight mini-suites, each of three movements.

Making effective use of loops and effects pedals, textures are added layer by layer, making the expedition through landscapes an atmospheric and evocative listening experience. The three pieces that make up ‘Monastery of Oddballs’ are suitably gothic in character, with drone-like pedal tones, sustained notes and percussive effects. Every now and then the deep throbbing sounds reminded me of a didgeridoo – perhaps played at dusk in a sacred place. The sense of a journey is conveyed in ‘In the sea of heads’, from concepts to revelation. And Elsen is up and down that fretboard like a demon. It’s a joy to listen to.

In ‘The Cave’ series, bass pedals are used to great effect and the plangent tones of the lower register well and truly conjure the frightening grandeur of an unexplored cavern. More than once I felt this was music that would be an ideal accompaniment to a mystery film. By the time we reach the ‘Bed 8’ trio of pieces, the mood has become more contemplative as if the musician was in a state of gentle reverie.

Elsen Price is as comfortable in classical, new music and world music, as he is in jazz and improvised music. A confident performer and composer with a broad imagination, he is definitely a bassist to keep an eye on. There are many many moments of startling beauty in The Life Long Day Dreamer, this vast tapestry of fantastical sounds and abundant textures.