Twin forces of time and nature permeate Elskavon‘s latest recording, musically as well as thematically. We’ve enjoyed having “North Sole” (a simultaneous pun on “Pole” and “Soul”) to play this winter, met by its summer-like companion, “Coastlines.” The first tumbles as softly as a snow globe, while the second bounces like a beach ball. The cover art, half classic and half modern, exemplifies this duality.
The titles “Origins,” “All These Years” and “This Won’t Last Forever” ~ the latter the finale ~ emphasize the importance of enjoying the time one has. Two early videos offer color over black and white, displaying images of times not too long ago, hardscrabble yet honest. But Chris Bartels also manipulates time by looping, warping, and slowing his voice, creating an aural distortion. The liner notes are a bit misleading, as they emphasize a coming-out as singer-songwriter when vocalist is the more accurate term. Phrases are dropped into music like spices into soup, then stirred. The gentle tempos allow the words to marinate and separate, becoming components of the overall flavor. Even when the singing seeps closer to the foreground (as on the “Blossom and the Void”), it doesn’t quite reach the foreground, settling for a gauzy, Cocteau Twins-like segment of the sonic spectrum. The artist reveals time as malleable, imitating the manner in which the human mind loops back, repeats, distorts, amplifies and dulls memories, finally ceding control to neurons and synapses.
This being said, the artist has one last lesson to teach. The closing track is also the album’s most organic, built upon a ground of acoustic guitar. After so many sequencings and re-pitchings, the music returns to home base. Through this lens, “This Won’t Last Forever” becomes less a lament than an encouragement. Some things, despite the passage of time, hold true. (Richard Allen)