I first heard Elkhorn, the New York City based, long term friends, Jesse Shepard and Drew Gardner, whilst searching out new and interesting sounds to balance my equilibrium. The duelling duo had just digitally released the name your price ‘LIVE at Rhizome’. An album featuring tracks from their eponymous debut release ‘Elkhorn’ on fellow NYC label Beyond Beyond is Beyond becoming a sold out and now sought after limited edition cassette.
The Rhizome live set, recorded in D.C during the winter of 2016 includes collaboration with Marian McLaughlin and from Ian McColm on Drums. It perfectly captures their blend of calming yet intense, expansive yet intimate sounds showcasing how their style interweaves the extended folk standard with psychedelic improvisation. Their music flowing freely in, through and out of pre to post Rock phases whilst time travelling from the 1860s to the 1960’s.
The new Elkhorn LP ‘The Black River’ is out on Debacle Records, an experimental label based in Seattle. Recorded at Black Dirt Studios by Jason Meagher and Mastered by Patrick Klem of Klem Sound the release is available in digital format. As well as and for the first time seeing the band on heavy 175g vinyl. The limited-edition pressings are housed in a UV spot gloss embellished sleeve with art and design by Mikey Rioux.
Cinematic opener and title track ‘The Black River’ begins, bobbing at the shore side of one’s imagination. Jesse’s twelve string sound shimmers bright like a dawning sunrise. Drew’s electric guitar emanates reverberated wah-fuzz -tones that lap at the mind like inspirational waves. ‘Ohun’ sails under an open sky toward a widening horizon, framed in the distance by a mountainous range of psychedelic peaks. The pioneer heritage takes precedence over progressive fusion here as the duel between the acoustic and electric tensions intensify in mood. Endeavouring onward, against the will of the elements, reaching an elevated altitude at which point, the storm breaks into the dream cloud of ‘Sugar Hill Raga’.
A blissfully karmic track which drifts from Amsterdam Avenue through the Manhattan boroughs east, like incense on the wind. In this track Shepard’s steel strings resonate in rhythmic ostinato like the drone of a Tambura, illustrating a broad pallet and taste for world music. As if carried by swelled sails from a strong wind, buoyed by a patriotic pride singing at its heart, rooted in swamp rock, bedded in bluegrass and anchored in Appalachian melodies, ‘Due West’ symbolises landing back on home turf.
’Spiritual’ affirms a return to centre, grounding into Elkhorns traditional folk foundations and embracing progressive psychedelic exploration. ‘Depraved Heart’ carries a sombre weight tinged with angst and melancholy and brings the physical release to an end with ghostly undertones. The digital release includes a bonus track ‘Electric Fluid Magnified’. A dreamy track that comprises a reprise of insignias of all the individual album tracks and rests somewhere between pedal steel and shoe gaze and is a blissful conclusion when arrived at after experiencing completion of the full journey upon ‘The Black River’.
See the official video for ‘The Black River’ and find out more about Elkhorn below