The songs may be fine-tipped and acute in their melodic and emotional detail, but the songwriter comes from a big world. Opera singer turned academic scholar and adventurous globally-attuned singer-songwriter, Elías Krell was born in Germany and has lived at various times in England, Greece, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States, landing, for the moment, in the fertile musical environment of New York’s mid-Hudson Valley (Kingston, Woodstock, Hudson). As Eli, Krell’s solo debut after several band projects, comprises 14 tracks of exquisite and earthy chamber folk and internationally-sourced jangle pop.
By turns sophisticated and disarmingly artless, crafted and candid, As Eli shares in the heightened spirit of classical art song and complex South American pop on one hand, street music and confessional minimalism on the other. It is predominantly acoustic and understated, drawing inspiration from serious music, from multiple folk traditions, and from the revolutionary American female singer-songwriters of the ‘90s. But As Eli revels also in the luxuriant arrangements and sonics of international swank pop on such production showpieces as the ‘60s cover tune “Únder My Umbrella” and the record’s thematic linchpin “All of Us (Is Gone Now).”
As Eli begins at the end, with a trio of unconventional breakup songs. “More than You Gained” is a metaphor-rich relationship post mortem delivered under the cover of a lyrical fiddle waltz. In the wickedly funny clarinet rag “Too Old for You,” the singer boasts, in immaculate tin pan alley craft, of being too old, too broke, and too kicked around to have their heart broken again. Finally, the symbols and jokes subside in the intimate “All of Us (Is Gone Now), a lush and contemporary alt-folk ballad. The opening song sequence defines the rules for a record that is stylistically diverse but thematically focused.
As Eli includes two Spanish language songs: Krell’s own “Horizonte” and “Canción de las Simples Cosas,” a song made famous by one of Krell’s personal heroes, the Costa Rican singer Chavela Vargas. Recorded at the spacious Clubhouse studio in Rhinebeck, New York,As Eli features a small ensemble of players drawn from the Mid-Hudson Valley’s uncommonly deep A-list (including pop hitmaker Robbie Dupree in a vocal cameo). The vibe is naturalistic, spacious, and boutique: the players purring empathetically in the service of Krell’s stunning songs and performances.