Review: Elkhorn’s ‘The Storm Sessions’ builds up cabin fever

February 7, 2020 GMT

Elkhorn, “The Storm Sessions” (Beyond Beyond is Beyond)

Elkhorn, the guitar duo formed by Jesse Sheppard and Drew Gardner, is joined by friend Turner Williams on “The Storm Sessions,” a series of instrumental improvisations born while being snowed in on the night of a key gig.

Sheppard’s 12-string acoustic and Gardner’s six-string electric guitars are complemented by Williams’ electric bouzouki and shahi baaja, a kind of Indian zither, on Elkhorn’s sixth full-length release in five years.

Comprised of two titles — “Electric One” and “Electric Two” — with three parts each, their origins of enclosure and alienation are very much audible.

Williams’ contributions provide the jams with distinct tones and dynamics, sounding especially in sync with Sheppard’s acoustic guitar.

On the other hand, Gardner’s recurring reliance on a thin, distorted tone comes across as a bothersome pinprick on the ears that punctures the more reflective moods created by his partners. It’s the insistent sound you imagine Jack Nicholson’s caretaker character in “The Shining” hearing in his head as he develops that murderous cabin fever during a winter at the Overlook Hotel.


There are some pleasing, enjoyable exceptions, however, on sections like “Electric One (Part C)” and the middle of “Electric Two (Part B).” On these, the interplay sounds more integrated and the harmonies build on each other with some beautiful results.

Elkhorn have released some very good albums — last year’s “Elk Jam” and “Sun Cycle” are fresh examples — and while it’s easy to imagine how further collaborations with Williams could be truly rewarding, on “The Storm Sessions” it’s often hard to get past the exaggerated electric distortion.