There are various Ella Gurus out there but this Ella Guru were an eight piece band from Liverpool and The First Album was their first and only album, released in 2004 on a label called Banana. Their website was last updated in November 2005 so it's fair to say they are probably no more, unless they are attempting to challenge The Blue Nile for length of time taken between albums.
First off, they sound nothing like all the Liverpool bands you can think of. The music is a mix of acoustic guitars, brushed drums, trumpets, cornets, boy and girl vocals and pedal steel guitar. But don't go thinking this is similar to the twee folk arse currently doing the rounds, because there is a real steel to this music, a beautiful darkness, a sinister undercurrent throughout. Many reviews mention an Americana influence on the record; Lambchop crop up as a reference a few times, and whilst those influences are undeniable, the majority of the album sounds very English to me. This is a 'dusk' album, it makes me want to jump in the car drive up the motorway and head into the Lake District as the sun goes down. Always a good sign.
Park Lane Speakers is a standout track, a jumble of whispered words delivered with intent. I've listened to it seventeen times now and still can't work out what it's about. Another song that immediately strikes is Blues Is The Root, six minutes of delicious heartbreak, jaw dropping vocals and soaring trumpets. Kate Walsh sings the lead vocals and they should have won the Mercury Prize for that track alone. The record finishes, bizarrely and brilliantly with two guest vocals from The Mother's of Invention's Jimmy Carl Black. Why? How? you may ask, who the fuck knows, but as with everything else in the world of Ella Guru it's odd and magical at the same time.
It's a shame they are no longer around, probably due to the fact that whilst they received rave reviews across the board, they didn't shift many albums. But just maybe they realised they'd delivered everything they had to say so well on the first album and there was no point in spoiling their legacy. Did you hear that Strokes? Anyway The First Album along with Smother from the Wild Beasts set the bar for the rest of the year.