Back in September, i went up to New York City to visit some friends. On one of the nights i was there, we went to The Bowery Ballroom for a sort of "shoegazer super show" featuring Mahogany, Soundpool, Ulrich
Schnauss, and Elika. Elika was the only band i was not familiar with going in, and i enjoyed their set so much that i picked up a copy of the EP at the show.
After listening to it several times, i was suddenly struck with a revelation as to why i enjoyed their performance, and this EP, so much: Elika are the next logical progression for the band Isobella. Elika makes music that sounds like the step Isobella never made, the step i wanted them to make.
Long-term readers of EvilSponge will remember that i reviewed Isobella several times a few years back. The band has since broken up, which is for the best. I think that they had done all that could do. Basically, they were a three-piece with female voice and keyboards, two overdriven, noisy, shoegazery guitarists, and a drum machine. That's it. The music was classic shoegaze -- dense heavy guitars in swirling layers, with a strong yet light female voice over top. And yet... Isobella never stepped outside the "rock" genre, much as i urged them to.
Elika takes the same basic formula -- female voice, drum machine, keys, and highly effected guitars -- and leaves "rock" behind. This is electronic shoegazer music. The drum machine here does not attempt to re-create some absent person, but rather skips, stutters, and jerks along like some thing from an electronic tune. Elika make shoegaze merged with electronica. There were hints of that in the
second Isobella record, but the band never quite made it there. Elika go for it, and they succeed more often than not.
There are nine songs in 30 minutes on this EP. Some of the tunes are short interludes, while others are full-blown songs. On the interludes, Elika present some full-on electronica, not even pretending to be a "band" really. The music sounds like it could have been made by a self-aware laptop.
Their songs though -- those move in fascinating ways that interest me to no end. Consider Fire, in which vocalist Evagelia Moravelias really shines.
"We look out over the water
Is it so vast it engulfs us.
Is it the fault of the water?"
Beautiful lyrics, and sung in a delicate
female voice, perfectly suited to the music.
You're Not Safe At All is, i think, the most Isobella-like tune on the record. It is a delicate affair of arpeggioed guitar and light voice, that swells up loudly on the choruses. The effect is really like what Isobella were doing on the high points of their final album, Surrogate Emotions of the Silverscreen. Moravelias's voice dances lightly over Brian Wenckebach's guitar, and, in the background, a drum machine chugs along in and out of focus, as if it is set on some mysterious dub setting, and then at the end explodes with some Autechre-ish stuttering. Brilliant.
Overall, i am impressed. Elika have now joined up with the Fiercely Independent collective out of the UK, and apparently a debut full-length will be available in February.