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Elkhorn, has returned with a record that is rich with contrasts. It is simultaneously intimate and expansive, impulsive yet introspective, harmonic and yet dissonant. Despite these opposing qualities, the duo (along with guest Turner Williams), have woven together a piece of music that is truly spellbinding.

The recordings you hear were conceived during a snowed-in evening, as Drew Gardner (on electric six-string), Jesse Sheppard (on acoustic twelve-string) and Williams (armed with an electric bouzouki on “Electric Part One” and a shahi baaja during “Electric Part Two”) locked into two otherworldly grooves and improvised the hell out of them.

The environment of these sessions is very important, as you certainly can feel it all throughout the album. It’s as if the crew were soundtracking the very storm that they were seeking shelter from. Flurries of delicate acoustic notes rush in from one direction as gales of fierce electric picking tear in from another. And yet, there’s a warmth to these recordings that is not too far from the kind of warmth one experiences while watching a blizzard from the comfort of their living room. Even at the album’s most chaotic and psychedelic moments, there’s always a welcoming and cozy feeling that permeates through the music. And boy, does it ever get psychedelic…

At various points, especially towards the middle of “Electric One (Part C),” Gardner and Sheppard coil their guitar lines tightly around each other like some sort of sonic fractal. Meanwhile, layers of reversed notes pulse, shred and flutter through the mix like some sort of distorted distress signal that’s being transmitted across the galaxy. Elsewhere, like on the following track, “Electric Two (Part A),” low, rumbling drones serve as the forlorn backdrop for fuzzed-up electric and cosmically acoustic fingerpicking, the notes from which float about with untethered ease.

The intricate attention to details on this record is simply uncanny (especially for an extended improvised jam). Even as they apply multiple effects and filters, they still treat every note and every moment of silence as a precious pearl that deserves reverence. Nothing gets buried, no matter how densely stacked the layers of sound become.

As with Live/Dead, Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert or Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz, this is an improv record that will be looked upon and studied by students of the freaky and the free for many years to come.

Preorder this record ahead of its February 7th release date right here.

-KH


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