Lisa Germano quietly released “No Elephants” earlier this year and for Lisa, it continues to slide her further into the realms of beautiful breakdown that she’s been exploring particularly over the previous three albums.
Opening with “Ruminants” begins with fluttering wings and bird song before slow and soft piano gently clamber through its chords whilst Lisa brings on her high register on her voice to make words like “Hogwash” actually sound emotive. Quite an achievement in itself. “No Elephants” calls on similar tactics but sounds like it’s been recorded live. You can hear seat cracks and a the piano foot tap. This track is Germano at her best though. She can work pathetic sounding discordant woodwind and bass guitar like no other. The music during this album reminds me of a music box. The chord progressions and the way they are played. It also introduces a key signature that appears in a few songs – the mobile reception feedback buzz. It makes a curious backing for such a sad track.
“Apathy And the Devil” introduces distorted drum loops slowly echoing in the background whilst everything else aside from the piano riffs get lost in swirling electronic buzzes, hums and telephone beeps. Clearly Lisa has been inspired by the way how the phone technology is infiltrating all life as she sings “I watch the world explode”. The message is more pointed with the interlude “Back To Earth” which takes dial tones and puts them on a repeating echo. “Haunted” goes for uncomfortable chords and makes the piano sickly sweet to make it all the more eerie. “A Feast” appears to be Lisa’s idea of a Christmas song with sleigh bells and evil tuned bells not quite being in tune as random interludes to a more swinging track compared to the songs before it. “Up In The Air” follows a similar vein only in a more start/stop momentum. The track really comes alive during the violin sections as Lisa knows how to make a lot of emotion in a short space of time. “Dance of the Bees” brings back the mobile phone buzzing noises again for another percussive interlude with some nice uke making a welcome return from her old albums too.
“Diamonds” along with tracks two and three are the standouts on the album. There is a beautiful ebb and flow with the string accompaniment that’s not present on a lot of the album but here its in abundance. It really pushes the track along and makes it more dynamic and expressive. “…And So On” is a cute ditty that’s one of the warmest tracks on the album before “Last Straws For Sale” showcases Lisa’s lyrical talents over a broken track. The album closes fittingly with more phone dial tones and a simple track playing over the top. “Strange Bird” reminds me very much of the Lullaby album and this album is probably the closest to that album tonally.
“No Elephants” is curious because it works better as a collective then as tracks on their own separately. It also needs time to bed in. There’s very little immediately hookable here but its all about the emotion that ebbs and flows over the twelve tracks. I also think that actually making something that was not full of hooks was part of the point. It feels like a subliminal attack on phones and with that, their immediacy. “No Elephants” sticks completely to its apparent vision and for that Germano should be commended.