Elkhorn

While they’ve been fixtures in the NY live scene for a while yet, and have been racking up accolades with releases on Eiderdown, Debacle, and Beyond Beyond is Beyond, this is undoubtedly the year that Elkhorn makes an indelible impact on the psychedelic spectrum. With the release of a tandem pair of albums for Feeding Tube, the duo gives two distinct visions of their doom-slicked folk fallout. On Elk Jam, the band functions as a proper four-piece with acclaimed guitarist Willie Lane and drummer Ryan Jewell giving Drew Gardner and Jesse Sheppard an improvisational backdrop to work against. This LP locks the players into a shaggy trip that weaves an even denser tangle of guitars than the duo usually finds themselves caught in and knocks their rippled runs against Jewell’s expert anchor. It’s an excellent stab at the Six Organs/P.G. Six/Rangda school of psych-folk freeform that would set them apart in any year, but they don’t let things hang on Elk Jam alone.

That leaves Sun Cycle, the dark jewel of the band’s catalog. Opening cold and frost-bitten with the slow creep of “Altun Ha,” the album plunges the band into the dark corners of psych-folk, bubbling under the skin with a high-plains harrow. There’s a heavier sense of danger in the veins of Sun Cycle, feeling like the soundtrack to a dystopic Western, where the stakes are high and hardly anyone’s walking off into the sunset alive. Lane and Jewell are still here, but they’re less foils for Elkhorn than hues in their palette, creating deep oil paint scars of cracked black and saturated blue underneath the brilliant amber runs of Sheppard’s twelve string and Gardner’s electric purple drips of psychedelic sorrow.

To say there hasn’t been an LP of instrumental intensity on this level in quite a few years is no hasty statement. Wiliam Tyler’s coming close this year, but Elkhorn are topping the mount. As a pair of LPs, there aren’t too many instances of someone stormbringing this hard with quality equaling quantity. Sun Cycle in particular knocks the band into the ranks of Rose, Chasney, and the brothers Bishop. If you’ve been holding out for an essential release in the first half of 2019, look no further, this should be turntable bound and locked down for the next couple of months of your life. Let its pain become yours, its briefer moments of joy salve the soul and its sparkling strings ease the mind.



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