If you want to be a mammoth, you’ve got to make tracks like a mammoth. That’s why Moncton, NB Acadian “heavy soul” outfit Les Moontunes have deepened their musical footprint on their sophomore album, Elephant Wizard, and its attendant second single, “Enchanted Tusks.”
A concept record about a mystical pachyderm and his quest to find peace somewhere in the universe, Elephant Wizard adds some extra muscle to the septet’s customary melánge of soul, jazz, hip-hop and metal. That toughened-up approach was foretold by the title track when it was released as a preview single late last year; now comes “Enchanted Tusks,” whose Zappa-esque sonics are built on dreamy piano swirls interrupted by bursts of fuzzed-out guitar frenzy. Vocals overdriven to the point of distortion crackle with electricity as they chronicle the emergence of the album’s title character, whose tusks can be seen “Coloring the night/ Brighter than the starlight.” Then the picture turns grimmer:
Wanted for its wizardry
The Elephant wants to run free
Evil wants the ivory
A magic tusk of eternity
What happens then? Don’t expect to be spoon-fed an answer. Lyrically and musically, the focus of the album is less on traditional, linear storytelling than on conveying an emotional journey through mood. Then again, what else would you expect from a bunch of highly intuitive groove junkies who met in high school and started playing and improvising together in a darkened basement, with only a swirling disco ball for light? Some of the members of Les Moontunes have since departed their native Moncton to Montreal and Halifax to formalize their musical education, but you can still feel the camaraderie of those early marathon rehearsals in every like-minded jam they record.
Ironically, the new album was inspired by isolation. Reeling from the one-two punch of a lost job and the COVID shutdowns, pianist/vocalist (and chief songwriter) Miguel Dumaine coped by brainstorming a character called the Elephant Wizard, whose story could be told in song. When he and his bandmates — Jeremie Poitras, Martin Daigle, Monica Ouellette, Patrick Gaudet, Samuel Frenette and Marc-Andre Richard — were able to reunite for a residency in Sussex, they fleshed out the concept together.
Producer Mike Trask’s analog approach to recording and his receptivity to in-studio composition were just the old-school influence the band was looking for to get the tale on tape. The premise of the resulting album is as provocative as it is simple: “When faced with cruelty and betrayal, the magical Elephant Wizard sets out to fight off evil and find a better life for himself on Planet Metal. But will this solve his misery?”
Taking a trip to their own planet metal gives Les Moontunes every chance of living their best life. Their eponymous 2021 debut album netted them that year’s Music NB Awards for Breakthrough Artist of the Year and Video of the Year (for the single “Paper Boat”). With the new album out and “Enchanted Tusks” and its accompanying video turning all the right heads, even greater accolades are sure to follow. This Elephant has just begun to roar.