El Duende!
. . . the dark spirit pervades . . .
overcome album cover


El Duende cannot fail to make a mark on your heart. Their warm, gentle brand of deep voiced balladeering and rustic romanticism successfully avoids all the country cliches of rivers, sunsets and winding roads, and instead delves, into how relationships can soar and why love is so important. Not completely new territory you might say, but El Duende know how to rewind the story and give their themes renewed vigour and wide-eyed wonderment.

Led by the distinctive, soothing tones of singer/songwriter Daniel Morphett and backed impeccably by a group with enough sensitivity to give the words and voice breathing space, the cumulative effect is both charismatic and intoxicating.

El Duende are a result of time; a realization that good work can happen with the recklessness of youth but can be so much stronger through quieter, mature insights. From the ashes and on-goings of Sydney underground favourites Tactics, Crow, The Craven Fops and The Cannanes, there is a well-travelled worldliness about this music embedded in the personal - but a personal that strikes into the universal.

The third song 'Dum Dum' from their gorgeous debut album Overcome (Reverberation) and the overwhelmingly sensual centre-piece 'Spanish' may best illustrate their sound and vision. They are victory songs of sorts, arriving at a time in one's life, where love finally falls into place. With warm strolling bass lines, rousing choruses, romantic lyrics and subtle, effective use of violin and trumpet, the overall effect creates a breathtaking grandeur like arriving at the top of a mountain on a clear skied day. From the opener 'Sing To Me' to the closing reprise, Overcome is rather like a necklace of consistent pearls attracting more attention with each subsequent wearing.

As good as Overcome is however, one feels that there are even better records ahead for El Duende. Drenched as they are in the knowledge of what makes a strong, lyrical song, it is still early days for them. Morphett's diligent, evolving songwriting is already on display with many new songs working their way into the band's live set. Up to this point, they haven't ventured out of Sydney, something which will be changing towards the end of this year with interstate touring. This is a music of both longevity and timelessness where fashion trends are irrelevant that deserves a large audience.

For followers of such artists as Elliot Smith or Ron Sexsmith or on a local level, the lost too early Triffids or Blackeyed Susans, El Duende would feel very comfortable in the aforementioned company.Their terrain is uplifting, hopeful, considered but not dourly so. They make it abundantly clear why songs can instantly make a sad day turn into a slightly happier one and why the road of frail mortality can bring out the most daring truths and finest celebrations.

Kieran Carroll
October 2005