Elkhorn, instrumental guitar duo of guitarists Jesse Sheppard (12-string acoustic) and Drew Gardner (6-string electric), releases their 6th full-length record in five years on February 7, 2020. The Storm Sessions is a two-side improvisation record that finds Sheppard and Gardner joined by Turner Williams (electric bouzouki, shahi baaja). The séance like connection and telepathic energy on display in these improvisations reflect the enigmatic dynamism of the time and place in which it was recorded. Snowed in on the night of an important gig, instead of letting the situation dampen their spirits, Elkhorn let their spirits soar through a series of near-transcendental explorations. Listed simply as “Electric One: Part A, B, C” and “Electric Two: Part A, B, C”, Elkhorn’s The Storm Sessions introduces itself as more symphonic movement than other-worldly jam. Each piece builds and plays with its initial theme as each instrument adds subtle yet significant tonal accolades until the piece has been transformed into something else, seamlessly slipping from one form to another while maintain its foundation.
“Electric One: Part A” begins as a slow rumination on country blues guitar before building throughout “Electric One: Part B” into cacophony of other worldly tones. As if wandering, plodding, through a deserted backcountry before being beamed aboard a starship bound for the outer reaches of the universe, these passages embrace the vastness in between the notes as much as the notes themselves and in doing so establish an outpost in the outer-limits. Just as the voyage is about to return to Earth, “Electric One: Part C “launches into the stratosphere yet again as mix or near sitar or backwards guitar tones are drawn from William’s electric bouzouki over the hypnotic presence of Sheppard’s 12-string and Gardner’s 6-string adventures.
“Electric Two: Part A” opens with a single droning tone as thunderous energy builds in the distance – a conquering army or storm on the horizon. As the tempo and timbre ebb and flow as Elkhorn play with harmonics and drones as sparse fingerpicks tip toe throughout the landscape careful to avoid a budding anxiety in the electric guitar’s weighty tendencies and “Electric Two: Part B’s” darker turns. As “Electric Two: Part B” continues a slow build reaches for more uplifting heights at once growing beyond and maintain a remembrance of the darker sonics that set its initial tone before resolving in a near atonal jumble of competing lines and noise at once jarring and inviting. This final shudder from “Electric Two: Part B” readies listeners for the final return to the lonesome dispatch of “Electric Two: Part C” where a reminder of Elkhorn’s country blues foundations compete with fuzzed out stabs and spikes that punctuate the final moments of The Storm Sessions escapades in sonic manipulation.
The Storm Sessions is especially well-suited for a vinyl listening experience in which each side can be experienced as a work unto itself. If you listen to a digital copy of the record, I suggest loading and listening to one side at a time to optimize your listening pleasure. Take a break from a hectic world and get lost with Elkhorn for twenty minutes or so at a time. With The Storm Sessions, Elkhorn build and expand upon the legacy of John Fahey’s American Primitive Guitar and Leo Kottke’s 6- and 12-String Guitar. Wondering where instrumental guitar music is going in the 21st Century, then pick up a copy of Elkhorn’s The Storm Sessions today to find out. https://elkhorn.bandcamp.com/album/the-storm-sessions