Elephant Revival sounds like the typical festival staple - a band lends a soundtrack to an audience that's too busy milling around for the first minute to pay attention. Once the quintet gets going, however, there shouldn't be an inattentive ear in a mile's radius.
At least, that's what their partially live album, "Sands of Now," suggests. Part studio songs and part live recording, the album gives newbies a taste and seasoned fans a feast of the group's trademark folk, Celtic, gypsy and Americana sound.
The collection opens with "Shadows Past," which incorporates traditional folk sound - that magical combination of fiddle and guitar - with a mystical Eastern sound. Its chorus encourages listeners to "Dry your eyes, look inside, you will find it's quite all right," before transitioning back to the loping verses that sway back and forth.
And it is quite all right. In fact, the album is a perfect primer for those unfamiliar with Elephant Revival's10-year history and Colorado roots. Not only does it include nine previously unreleased songs, like the titular "Sands of Now" and pictorial "Fallout Fields," but it also provides listeners with an in-person experience through its nine live recordings and accompanying DVD from a sold-out Red Rocks Amphitheater performance in 2014.
But a band touted for its energy on stage faces a double-edged sword with this recording. It's so clear and crisp that it's easy to forget that this was recorded live until the crowd contributes cheers in the second half of the album and, more memorably, wolf howls in "Sing to the Mountain." Because of the band's clarity, the energy doesn't fully emerge. That's what the DVD is for - visuals, such as dancers Ryan Hamity and Cassie Drew add to "Ancient Sea" and "Echo's Rose" an ultra-dramatic, breathtaking spectacle that wouldn't typically fit into a typical folk performance.
Then again, Elephant Revival isn't the typical folk band. The group has been applauded for its inventiveness and innovativeness, but they should also be recognized for their technical depth. This is music that can apply as a soundtrack to crowded street festivals, but more importantly leave a solitary listener gobsmacked with its complexity.