Review: Specimen EP by ELK

Elk

There is music which by default tumbles into that categorical looseness known as post-rock, a term so vague that even the most knowing of oracles would be hard pressed to define it.

I like to think of it as a musical free spirit; music without a map or specific direction, meandering aimlessly through a myriad uncharted territories.  Chameleon like changes of sound and texture, vacillating between tempos, swimming seas of varying emotions.  I cannot define post-rock in the same way that I cannot confine the music of Elk to one single genre. The Shropshire four-piece are about so much more than a single-instance of style.

Elk are Dom Main (vox/electronics), Jamie Wesley (guitar), Will Soutter (drums/electronics) and James Kerr (bass).  They met whilst at Durham Uni where they allegedly studied things medical and scientific, and having a formed a bond over tea, music and er, Elks obviously, they turned friendship into a band and are playing together even since.

Today marks the release of their debut EP Specimen, three tracks of truly phenomenal musicianship and exceptional vocals that radiate transcendence and epitomise originality and diversity.  Despite being recorded in the hermetic confines of an attic the resultant three songs are anything but dark or claustrophobic.

That Elk take their influences from a wealth of artists – Japan, Radiohead, ’80s electronica – is reflected in the eclectic nature of their music, something which is very evident when you listen to their new EP. Opening track Continuously, like the ebb and flow of a tide, veers in the direction of Kid A and then away again, falling on your ears like a shower of otherworldly dreams. Experimental ambient in nature, it comes replete with stick click percussion and slickly executed tempo changes. After a careful build, the song rises to a deftly woven compelling climax that features a rather adeptly performed insistent guitar solo.

Possibly the most captivating and definitely the most poignant song on the EP is the title track. I was lucky enough to be on Fresh on the Net reviewing duty when it featured in their Fresh Faves back in February – click here to read the review. Specimen’s gentle rise and fall leads us through a pastoral landscape on its journey to some faraway, meditative nirvana. Lead singer Dom Main’s angelic falsetto is set in a transcendental ambience the peace of which is broken only by intermittent shards of sonorous guitar.  If you could only use one word, it would be ‘bliss’.

Final track (and personal favourite) Iceberg makes yet another stylistic volte-face, one which elevates Elk’s post-rock sound to Radiohead levels (lying somewhere between Kid A and Hail to the Thief). A fusion of electronic wizardry and earthy jazz-pop it is a vivid exploration of texture, a confluence of wildly disparate yet complementary styles.  Its brilliance is in its idiosyncratic weirdness; its divergent elements, perfectly teased and executed, are brought together in a carefully conceived of arrangement and precision production.

Specimen doesn’t define Elk but rather sets out their stall in terms of skilful musicianship and unbounded innovation. By taking this unorthodox adventure into unmapped soundscapes, Elk have shown they are willing risk-takers and fearless experimentalists who put originality ahead of populism.

The Specimen EP was mastered by Cem Oral (Gwen Stefani, NIN) at Jammin Masters studios, Berlin,  and comes complete with contemporary artwork by the award winning Matthieu Leger.  To celebrate its launch, Elk will join FOTN alumni Sykoya amongst others in the line up for HOTVOX, Camden Assembly, 29th April, details here.  Other gigs to follow, details will be posted on their Facebook page. ‘Specimen’ is out now and available for download from Amazon.

Review first posted on derveswerv.wordpress.com

Derval

Devotee of Music, Books, Art, Fashion & all things cultural. Keen interest in IT/Social media. Currently trying to plug musical gaps. With a special fondess for Nordic music, Derv has written for The Monitors, Ja Ja Ja and The 405, and blogs at DervSwerve.

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