On Distances, Elkhorn proves just how far they’ve evolved by soaring to daring new heights on robust and agile wings.
Across the record’s four epic tracks, guitarists Drew Gardner (electric) and Jesse Sheppard (acoustic) take their twisting double-helix interplay down gnarled and heavily forested footpaths, snaking along the seismic rhythms of duo drummers, Ian McColm and Nate Scheible.
The group kicks the record off on an earthy, shroom-laced tone, with the molten riffage of “Train.” Propulsive cannon-like drums erupt as Sheppard and Gardner invoke the ferocity and doom of Black Sabbath through their potent mix of woody acoustics and fluorescent electric guitars. Crank the volume way, way up when you play this track. With its charging locomotive intensity and ayahuasca-trip atmosphere, this tune is as psychedelic and wild as the artwork on the LP cover.
From here, the band explores lighter territories with the dazzling radiance that is “Wilderness.” This song is illuminated with sunny Richard Thompson-like electric somersaults and barrel-roll drum fills that could easily spiral the tune off into a multitude of disparate directions. This is the peak of the group’s unadulterated exuberance. It sounds like a celebration of life itself, wrapped up into a tight five-minute instrumental.
The following cut, “1919,” starts off as a melancholic piece that transports you to lonely stretches of open highways, dusty landscapes and wide open skies. In the first half of the track, Gardner’s solos take center stage and slide like liquid mercury, before the drums briefly dominate the song, signaling a shift in mood and tempo. Then, Sheppard’s fingerpicking kicks in to weave a towering intricate web for Gardner to scale with his aggressive electric licks, as the drummers whirl and crash around them like a tropical cyclone.
The track’s multi-staged progression, with its peaks and valleys, is similar the journey of the psychedelic experience, which makes you wonder if the track was titled “1919” because that was the year Austrian chemist Ernst Späth became the first person to synthesize mescaline.
The album closes with the 18-minute title track, which is also more of a suite, but unlike the previous song, this piece seems to rely slightly more on ambience. The tune’s transcendental and leafy atmosphere is mainly conjured by Sheppard’s sinewy fingerpicking, which often takes the lead. The arsenal of shimming and jazzy percussive tricks that McColm and Scheible keep up their sleeves certainly solidifies the track’s mystical mood.
Meanwhile, Gardner’s coiling guitar lines, with their clean and glassy tones, add the perfect amount of electric illumination to this otherwise chiaroscuro bath of sound. In almost 20 minutes, the group explores just about all of the tune’s many sonic possibilities without ever letting the piece grow dull or listless.
While they’re certainly no strangers to collaboration, Distances shows just how hard Elkhorn works to uncover the strongest possible magic that could come from combining their powers with that of their guests. This is a record of a heavily versatile band in full creative flight, completely confident and unencumbered. It may just be the duo’s most compelling LP to date. Click here to get your copy from Feeding Tube Records today.
If you liked the sound of this record, you should check out the playlist Elkhorn put together for us of influences of and other sounds that fit within the world of Distances universe: