The Eldar another race that for me turned out to be deceptively difficult to define musically.  As I evolve this project I’m envisioning not only music that evokes the spirit of a race, but also music that sounds like they may have made it or at least might listen to it, so I think that’ll help me out in this case.

To get started we first need to characterize what makes the Eldar the Eldar.  For starters they’re elves.  Fantasy lore throughout the ages tells us that elves are basically extra cute/sexy humans that are typically very agile  and often bear strong ties to nature.  Other than perhaps the nature bit, I think this is true of the Eldar, so we’ll be needing something lithe and perhaps with a slightly sexy undertone to it.  Delving into the actual GW canon, we’ll find that they are essentially a dying race, cruising the galaxy in craftworlds.  This is going to be quite tricky.  We need to find something that represents decay and isolation, but doesn’t delve into nihilistic or German Romantik period fits of destruction.  Maybe we’ll just say that something on the slightly mournful side is in order, bearing in mind that we still need to maintain some elfin beauty or an uplifting quality.  Man, this keeps getting harder.

Plunging deeper still into the subject matter yields further insights into what makes the Eldar unique.  They’re technologically advanced.  Ok, that’s almost a freebie, thanks GW for giving us something easy to work with.  All we need is something with a technological edge in instrumentation or production.  Piece of cake.  They’re also known for the Psykers- Farseers and Warlocks.  That’s going to be tricky to come to grips with.  Maybe some songs on the subject of psychic powers exist, but how about we focus on wraithbone instead?  Used in everything from weapons and armor to buildings and warpgates, wraithbone, shaped by psychic forces, is essentially the materialization of the warp.  Well, I think we just found our connection to nature via the interconnectedness of life and the warp.

Diving deeper still, we find out that Eldar are a race of suspect motives, staging pinpoint, lightning fast attacks for no outwardly apparent reason.  Now those of us in the know are aware that they’re working to keep the universe in balance, but that’s a closely guarded secret.  This is a hard quality to define musically, but I’m thinking we’re looking for something on the capricious side of things, music that is synaptic in nature and can change moods, themes, or hooks rapidly.

Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us, but here goes nothing.

Iceland’s Sigur Rós has been making some of the most beautifully bleak post rock songs ever created since the mid-nineties.  Their lead singer/guitarist, Jónsi, put out a solo record this year, Go Do, that is absolutely breathtaking and easily one of the best records of the decade.   I don’t mean to gush, but sometimes an artist really hits me in a way that warms up my icy, black heart.  I got the opportunity to see him live when he came through Chicago, and I have to say that it was easily the best stage show I’ve ever seen.  Fanboy wet dreams notwithstanding, I think there are a number of things in the song “Boy Lilikoi” that make me think of the Eldar.  For starters, just listen to his voice.  If that’s not elfin, I don’t know what is.  From a production standpoint, the song has a very organic feel, featuring lots of different acoustic instruments including guitars, percussion (some really weird shit if you listen closely), ukulele, harmonium, brass, woodwinds, etc.  There’s also some serious studio voodoo going on here too for the technologically advanced side of things.  Bear in mind that you may not catch everything through computer speakers, but if you listen to this on a halfway decent set of speakers or headphones (not the ones that came with your iPod), you’ll be amazed by how dense the track is.  I actually played this for a few recording engineers and they were completely blown away by how busy everything is, yet how clearly each element sticks out- this is some highly advanced mixing here.  Just listen and I think you’ll find all of the androgynous Eldar beauty and quickly changing sonic elements you could ever hope to hear.

Jonsi \”Boy Lilikoi\”

I’m not sure what it is about Iceland, but I think everyone there is some kind of freaking musical genius.  It must be all that darkness that drives them to strive to create the most ridiculously uplifting music in one of the bleakest environments possible.  Sounds pretty Eldar to me, so up next is Múm with “Green Grass of Tunnel.”  Once you hear the lead singer’s voice, you’ll be floored by how delicate and- I hate having to overuse this word but here it is again- elfin her singing is.  I think this song utilizes many of the themes mentioned above (organic yet highly digital feel, litheness, and shifting sonic textures) while really playing on the elusive sorrowful yet uplifting feel that we’re looking for.

Mum \”Green Grass of Tunnel\”

Rounding out the mix, I’ll just throw in another Icelandic artist.  Why break the trend this far in.  The next song comes from Bjork’s latest album, Volta. “Earth Intruders” takes us to slightly more aggressive places than the previous songs I’ve used, but the Eldar are a military race after all, so I don’t see a problem with this.  The first two lines of the song are simply “Turmoil” and “Carnage,”  bringing to mind the fate that befell the original Eldar home worlds.  The song’s core theme of invasion even fits pretty well into our framework, as the Eldar are pretty likely to show up unwanted just about anywhere, even if not to stay.  Large portions of this song and album were composed for the Reactable synthesizer.  Rather than explaining how this works, just go check out this video for it.  If ever there were an instrument created from wraithbone this would probably be it.  It’s almost like using those control objects on the deck gets you closer to the power of the warp.

Bjork \”Earth Intruders\”