Posts Tagged ‘Elkhorn’

Elkhorn

This one comes in a bit bittersweet for me. Before the cavalcade of Covid hit us last year, Elkhorn’s Winter tour would have passed through Tubby’s in Kingston for an RSTB Presents show alongside Glenn Jones and Alexander Turnquist. This was pretty much the week after the now fabled 75 Dollar Bill set that’s been immortalized on LP, but alas it was not to happen. We erred on the side of caution and with good cause, but it meant that the show remains frozen in hope until such a time that live music resumes in good faith. But as I’ve been missing Elkhorn in the live sphere this tape from War Hen arrives just in time to run down some excellent performances from their earlier dates on that tour — stopping through the Montauk Salt Cave, Rhizome in DC, Record Exchange in Philly, and Black Swann and Oddfellows in Virginia.

Along the way they picked up some locals to help them out and each show fleshes out the Elkhorn sound with pop-ins from Mike Gangloff, Nate Scheible, Harmonica Dan & Ken Brenninger, Jordan Perry, and Eight Point Star. Each set jam is unique to the sets that wrought them and each feel the inimitable touch of Elkhorn’s magic on the stage. Jesse and Drew, while excellent in the studio, are improvisors at heart and the stage opens up the sound of Elkhorn to new tributaries of sound that branch from their psych-scorched catalog. One of the true lifesavers during this time period has been the abundant proliferation of live material that’s been officially up for sale and this is right up there with the best from the last twelve months.



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Drew Gardner – “Cloud Gate”

The new gems just keep on coming today with another great new batch from Eiderdown led by the news of this Drew Gardener tape. Drew’s often the electric voice in Elkhorn and he continues the bend towards electric guitar tangles on “Cloud Gate.” Aided by the rhythm section of Andy Cush (Garcia Peoples) and Ryan Jewell (Chris Forsyth, Elkhorn, Ryley Walker) Gardner lays down a darkness that comes seeping in through the walls and windows. The new cassette is out March 5th and you can sneak a peek at a couple of tracks over at the ‘camp.



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Favorite Albums of 2020

Here’s the year end list. I’m not gonna wax on about how this year was rough, we all know it was a shit year and even more so for artists. It was, however, a great year for recorded music, and I had a hard time not making this list about twice as long to show love for all the albums that lifted me this year. I’ve long been against the whole idea of numbered lists, so once again things are presented in quasi-alphabetical style (I always mess one or two up in creating this, but you get the point). I’ve included Bandcamp embeds where they exist, so if you have the means and find something new, please reach out and support the artists here. Looking forward to 2021 as another year that music makes getting through easier.

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Elkhorn

The second installment of Elkhorn’s snowed-in sessions from last year strips away the electricity and effects, but with the cords cut the session only delves further into their dark night of the soul. Acoustic Sessions conjures up a relaxed vision of something previously posed in the electric setting, but here its no retread, but a tap into their similar apocalyptic folk vision, kicking at the dust bowl barrens just after the amps have gone dry. Working repetition and stark minimalism into a psychedelic experience that puts the echoplex away and turns up the inner turmoil, the Acoustic Storm Sessions create something of a haunted introspection that cycles ‘round and around in the brain with the three players pushing their stringwork through meditative moments that tapped isolation before it was cool.

Passages feel like they come from several planes of sound at once, pulling gently for attention before another player’s fingers rack the focus back. The set is split into two side-long improvisations, with the first more biting than the second. They stir up the ash and bone with side-A, letting the wounds heal a bit with the healing of Side-B. That second side wafts into a tender territory — resolute, exhausted, mindful of the flow of the aural conversation the guitars share. The strings find tension and twist on the record, but just as often they find a sort of solace solace over the winding trip laid bare here. This is one of those releases that’s stunning for the fact that it wasn’t even the focus of the sessions. This is the second wave, but its no less accomplished than the first — a bonus session that’s hardly cutting room worthy.




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Jeffrey Alexander + The Heavy Lidders – “West Ellet Fadeaway”

Caught The Heavy Lidders last weekend in the first feasible show I’ve been able to attend in seven month. Its good to be out watching it happen in the flesh, even if its 10 feet from anyone else in an Upstate NY farm field while it happens. The band was cut down to the core of Alexander, Jesse Sheppard, and Scott Verrastro but even with the austere lineup they brought a storm of psychedelic fury. On their first release propper The Lidders are fleshed out between 4 and 5 with extra help from Eklhorn’s Drew Gardiner, Headroom shredder Kryssi Battalene, and Sunwatchers’ Jeff Tobias on sax. The air is thick with ash and amplifer fallout here and there’s a feeling that the band may tear it all down at any moment. The good news is that this is just the first from the band, with rumblings of more Lidders on the way soon. For now, the high-tensity jet fuel burn of “West Ellet Fadeaway” and the rest of this zone out on Baked Tapes will just have to tide you over.




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Elkhorn – “Acoustic Storm Sessions (exerpt)”

Earlier in the year Elkhorn released an album of pent-up psychedelic darkness and desperation that was forged in an unintentional lock-in during a snowstorm that caused them to miss a pivotal Brooklyn gig last year. The album, made with friend and collaborator Turner Williams, showed the band at their improvisational peak, exploring their psych-folk prowess by turning an environment of disappointment into something extraordinary. Seems that the album, which found them in a configuration with Jesse on acoustic, Drew on Electric, and Turner shifting between electric bouzouki on one side, shahi baaja on the next, spawned a sister album that’s just now seeing the light of day.

This time Elkhorn eschew the plugs to release their first completely acoustic album, letting three guitars entwine in the ice-ensconced studio to create something that’s both meditative and mercurial. Not quite born of the Basho/Fahey axis, not quite beholden to the kind of ambient plains dusters that spawned Barn Owl, this is is a more tempered vision of Elkhorn’s apocalyptic folk. On the sample below, you can feel just a small fraction of the scope of these acoustic sessions, stripped bare of the ozone-crackle of their psychedelic fry, but no less devastating in their barren burn. If anything, the austerity only enhances the permafrost isolation of the band’s stranded situation during the recording. The LP is out October 2nd on Centripetal Force and Cardinal Fuzz.




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Best of 2020 (so far)

2020’s been a hell of a year, and one that doesn’t feel like definitive statements do it justice. Still, no matter how many seismic changes have occurred during the year, the music has been a source of solace and inspiration. The fact that so many artists have had their livelihoods upended gives it a slightly sour note, especially for some that may have been working years to let these statements out into the world. Keep hitting the Bandcamp revenue shares to support artists and labels directly. If you need some suggestions there’s quite a few below. Keep in mind that ‘best’ is by no means definitive, but these are some of my favorites. We all know that Run The Jewels hits hard, but someone else is gonna tell you about it better than I ever could. Still lots to look forward to musically in the second half, but the first part of the year has been a bounty to be sure.

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Elkhorn – “Electric Two (Part B)”

Elkhorn’s latest is a longform exploration of improvisation, set to tape with the band’s friend and collaborator Turner Wiliams one snowy night, shut in from the outside. The band’s releasing bits of the two sidelong pieces in the runup to the album release and they’ve let out one of my favorite portions today. Paired with a dizzying time-lapse, “Electric Two (Part B) locks the duo’s guitars with a sonorous drone — with the strings playing against one another like overlapping winds in the storm that raged outside the windows, the biting cold as constant as the oscillating tone underneath. As acoustics give way to the chemical burn of electric fuzz, the track brings on that familiar feeling of doom that’s woven between the bars of Elkhorn’s works from last year. This is vital, raw piece of work that’s among their best. Check out the video above and look out for that LP on 2/7.

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Elkhorn’s Jesse Sheppard on Bruce Palmer’s – The Cycle Is Complete

One of my top picks from last year was, without hesitation, the double LP darkness and light journey of Elkhorn. The double dose of lysergically locked guitars on Elk Jam and Sun Cycle pushed the band beyond anything in their catalog and sets up some pretty high expectations for their upcoming shut-in brainstorm The Storm Sessions. I’ve gotten to run a few shows over the past year with the band’s Jesse Sheppard on the bill and know that he’s not only a consummate musican but also a devoted collector. Naturally I figured he’d be a great fit for the Hidden Gems series and, as such, he has shed some much-needed light on a Buffalo Springfield-adjacent obscurity that sent a bit of a middle finger to the record industry on its release. Check out Jesse discussing Bruce Palmer’s The Cycle is Complete below.

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RSTB Best of 2019

2019’s drawing to a close, so I suppose this is the place to tie it all up. I’ve mentioned in years past that ‘best’ is a hard line to draw around the music from the year. From a blog perspective ‘favorite’ seems more appropriate, but then for all intents and purposes my choices are qualitatively the best to me, if not necessarily quantitatively best in the sense of the zeitgeist. The drive to figure out what’s best seems to just consolidate consensus and we’re all treated to dozens of lists that cross over with each other, especially in the top spots. I’ve long been a proponent of niche. I say long live finding your voice and letting others find theirs – we can all compare notes and discover new music in the process. I don’t need anyone to sand the edges and offer up a list that’s all inclusive. I like the edges. These are my favorites from a great year, edges and all.

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