Elkhorn’s catalog has been building steam for a while. It’s no secret around here that Sun Cycle, and it’s partner album, Elk Jam were a few of my top albums when they were released. The snowed-in set with Turner Williams stripped the band back but only served to prove their prowess under any circumstances, but it never felt like it lived in the same headspace as those recordings. Sun Cycle has always been the one from that bunch to hit me the hardest and Distances feels like the proper follow-up to that album. Jesse and Drew pick up the acoustic and electric responsibilities respectively, and this time they add a double drum counterpoint by way of Ian McColm and Nate Scheible. The quartet slipped into the studio with Jeff Ziegler for the record. Ziegler, who is finding himself inexorable from the Philly psych contingent these days adds an elevated balance to the album, letting the guitars glide over the tumult of drums below them. This studio stew produces one of the band’s headiest and most potent albums to date.
Jesse’s tenderness weaves throughout the record, letting the acoustic passages ripple on unseen winds. Drew then lights the psychedelic torch, leaning head-down into those winds and raising the heat on many of the songs here. The pair have spent years honing an unwritten language of give and take between their string work and it comes to a head one the cinder-scraped “Train,” and the cavernous descent into darkness on “1919.” They stretch themselves into the ambitious territory of their live shows, ending the record with the massive, 18+ minute title track, a culminating ceremony of triumphant will. The song starts with a fogged-on-the-mountain calmness. It crests and crashes down into its latter half with a resolve that’s gorgeous, if not a bit weatherbeaten, an autumnal send-off to the the album that tempers the fires lit by its first half. I know that this album has been years in the making, but letting it slip under the needle, the wait becomes worth it.
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