Essential New Music: Elkhorn’s “Sun Cycle/Elk Jam”

Elkhorn is a relatively young band, but it has a lot of history behind it. Electric guitarist Drew Gardner and acoustic 12-string guitarist Jesse Sheppard have been the core members of Elkhorn since 2013, but they’ve been playing together off and on since the 1980s. This explains the duo’s chemistry; while each man contributes something very different to the music, they sound like they couldn’t trip each other up if they tried. Gardner casts fluent, burning lines into the beyond while Sheppard supplies both rhythmic propulsion and resonant aura so radiant that the solar panels on your roof will absorb its energy.

But while these guys sound complete in each other’s company, they’re not a closed circle. Guitarist Willie Lane adds a third dimension to several tracks, and percussionist Ryan Jewell adds a varied-yet-unstinting drive. Sun Cycle and Elk Jam were recorded during the same sessions. The former has more compositional structure while the latter wears its spontaneous provenance on its sleeve, but they’re so complementary that they might just as well have come together in a gatefold sleeve. 

—Bill Meyer