Review: Swimming Upstream with Elephante’s Hypnotizing “High Water”

Elephante © Alex Lopes
Elephante © Alex Lopes
An immersive wave of feeling washes over the ears as Elephante’s “High Water” comes crashing down, sweeping us up in a whirlpool of pulsing energy and raw emotion.
for fans of NoMBe, Jai Wolf, Odesza
Stream: “High Water” – Elephante




An immersive wave of feeling washes over the ears as Elephante’s first release of the year comes crashing down on us. Roaring with pulsing energy and raw emotion, “High Water” surges with a fusion EDM/rock sound as Elephante swims upstream in a visceral pool of helplessness and need.

High Water - Elephante
High Water – Elephante
is it too late to call?
i swear i’ve seen the whole movie before
i don’t mean to bore you

but i’m twisted on this hotel floor
i’m callin out your name
i’m hearing your sirens, stuck in the silence
i’m callin out your name

i need just a taste, i’m begging you babe
so give me high water
don’t give me hell don’t give me hell

if this is high water then i won’t tell
no i won’t tell nobody

Released May 4, 2021 via Zoo Music / 88rising, “High Water” is a stunning immersion of the senses. It’s a fantastically emotive release from Elephante, the artist moniker for Ann Arbor-born, Los Angeles-based DJ, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Tim Wu – and for many, it may just the kind of exposure therapy we need to climb out of our own holes. The song serves as the first release off a forthcoming sophomore album, set to release later this August.

Elephante © Alex Lopes
Elephante © Alex Lopes

Blending Elephante’s EDM synth-laced background with organic guitars and his own intimate, expressive voice, “High Water” rises full of turbulence and heart-on-sleeve vulnerability.

is this the end of days
or just another nightmare in my head
cuz i ain’t seen the sun in weeks
still i can’t sleep for a second
not a wink

“I wrote “High Water” like I do most of my songs – acoustic on piano,” Elephante tells Atwood Magazine. “A lot of times when I write, the lyrics just appear in my head, like they’re being delivered, and it’s only after that I realize what I’m writing about. I had “Is it too late to call / I swear I’ve seen this whole movie before / Cause I don’t mean to bore you / but I’m twisted on this hotel floor,” and I was like, ‘Oh fuck, that’s me when I was withdrawing from Vicodin.’ And I went back to that place emotionally and found the rest of the song.”

A haunting reflection on his own experience withdrawing from opioids, “High Water” struggles through feelings of desire and hopelessness – the sense that he’s trapped, unable to escape from his own inner demons.

Elephante captures, in music, “the darkest moment in addiction where your mind gets so twisted that all you can think about is getting back to that high. During the pandemic, I thought a lot about that time in my life and saw a lot of parallels with life in quarantine, where all I wanted was to get back to the way things were pre-COVID, no matter the cost.”

He adds, “The guitar melody was something that just felt like an extension to the song – sometimes I have to wrestle with it, but this one was like the logical conclusion to a sentence – there was nothing else that could be there. I spent a ton of time trying to perfect the guitar tone, but I eventually just used the original demo takes – they were messy and fucked up sounding but just worked more than any of the “better” sounds I got. That’s sort of the magic of playing live instruments – it’s never going to be as pristine as something digital, but there’s beauty and soul in that imperfection. And that fucked up but moving quality is something I searched for on all of the songs on the album, and something I can’t wait to translate live.”

so i’m callin out your name
i’m hearing your sirens, stuck in the silence
i’m callin out your name
i need just a taste, i’m begging you babe
Elephante © Alex Lopes
Elephante © Alex Lopes

There’s an arresting immediacy to Elephante’s performance – like he’s reliving the pain of his addiction with each note and every line.

Immersed in harrowing depths, the artist nevertheless ensures his music is an enthralling, enchanting journey from start to finish. Akin to fellow genre-bending contemporaries like NoMBe and Jai Wolf, Elephante’s music is a lightning rod of energetic, lively passion. Effected guitars swim circles around the head as heated keys and drums lay an absorptive bed of sound, out of which Elephante’s own voice breaks through the madness and strikes our ears with precision and fine-tuned poise.

so give me high water
don’t give me hell don’t give me hell

if this is high water then i won’t tell
no i won’t tell nobody

Altogether, “High Water” is as finessed as it is raw, as buoyant as it is pained. Elephante emerges this year with renewed vigor and a refreshing self-confidence that comes from plunging into your own depths and confronting your truths. He may not have come away unscathed, but he’s most certainly found his calling. It’s a new dawn for Elephante, and we can’t wait to see where he goes next.

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:: stream/purchase High Water here ::
Stream: “High Water” – Elephante



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High Water - Elephante

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📸 © Alex Lopes

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