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the Sea is Fierce EP
February 11, 2003--Reviewer: A music fan from Calcutta, India: Once you hear the first track on this album, you will never be the same again. The song will invade your ears, aurally penetrating them with sounds so rich, so terrifyingly beautiful, that you may experience that tingling sensation that says undeniably: "It's working!" Take Me Out may have the most progressive gutiar solo recorded in 2001, while Turpentine seems to crash over you in waves. Three Ears could strip paint off walls; at the very least, you'll want to hop in your beat-up Chevy and drive, drive, drive. Strange is an impeccable tribute to Galaxy 500, and Bar Song is the perfect tune to go ahead and make the move. Oh, and the production on this album is gold. --5 stars
Pop Culture Press #54 summer 2002: New York City's Elk City laced their 2000 debut album, Status, with enough cinematic drama and droning atmosphere to garner favorable comparisons to P.J. Harvey and the Pixies. With their latest EP, The Sea is Fierce, Elk City continues down a similar path with slightly more edgy results. The band still trades in the unexpected, exemplified here by turning the disc's natural closer, the nine-minute acoustic/electric guitar wash of "Take Me Out," into a stunning opening track, and follows it with the laconic psychedelia of "Turpentine." The vocal interplay between bassist Renee LoBue's P.J. Harvey/Kim Deal whiskey croon and guitarist Peter Langland-Hassan's Steve Wynn/Lloyd Cole honey whisper makes for plenty of creative indie-pop tension, especially on their boiling cover of Galaxie 500's "Strange" and the howling mad "Three Ears," where LoBue comes off like Iggy Pop's female equivalent with the brilliantly tossed off lyric, "Big tits are not enough." Elk City's greatest talent so far has been the ability to work with a broadly disparate sonic palette that includes walls of guitars and keyboards, feedback aplenty, melodic noise, and a tasteful density, all without sounding scattered or confused. Achieving that balance across an entire album is a major accomplishment; Elk City drive home the point on this dreamily impressive and maddeningly brief EP in just five songs (which span less than half an hour). Elk City is a band that has a masterpiece bubbling somewhere under the surface and The Sea is Fierce is pointing the way.--Brian Baker
The Big Takeover #50 summer 2002: This psychedelic Brooklyn trio blasts off into the atmosphere with five gauzy mini-pop masterpieces. Often comparable to Galaxie 500 (their "Strange" is covered here), at least in the luxurious warmth department, Elk City draw further comparisons with every successive guitar note, subverted melody line, and cymbal-ridden drum crash (thanks to drummer Ray Ketchem). The real ace in the hole, however, lies in the compositions themselves. "Take Me Out" leads the ceremonial kick-off with nine minutes of swoon-worthy, overdriven, textural guitar wash. Then the EP seamlessly bleeds into "Turpentine," an absolutely astounding female/male vocal duet (courtesy of guitarist Peter Langland-Hassan and bass-pianist Renee LoBue) that doesn't so much tug at your heartstrings as it tears them out. Something is most certainly brewing in the industrial boroughs surrounding Manhattan. Enchanting.--Josh Gabriel
Skyscraper #11 summer 2002: EP's aren't always good values. Often, they're for avid fans or collectors, while average listeners should wait for the full-length release. But these three New York City art-popsters have fashioned a haunting, thrashed sonic excursion worth seeking out. Elk City has no connection to the Oklahoma town nor that region's rural or country accents. Rather, the trio melds mild electronics, smart pop and twists of folk and rock. The five-track, twenty-four minute EP is an engaging follow-up to Elk City's 2000 full-length debut, Status, which introduced singer-guitarist Peter Langland-Hassan, drummer Ray Ketchem and bassist-singer Renee LoBue (who uses a vintage bass synth that supplies textures acoustic string and electric bass guitars can't provide). Status had an acidic folksy amusement, which owed as much to Yo La Tengo as to Grandaddy, but was too idiosyncratic for pop fans, and just pop enough that true deviants ignored it. Nine-minute opener, "Take Me Out" explodes with noisy guitar, morphs to a moody arrangement akin to Low, and ends with a fuzzy feedback guitar frenzy that sounds like Neil Young on mushrooms. Langland-Hassan and LoBue duet like Black Francis paired with Kim Gordon, relating a narrative of desperation and obsession as unsettling as the herione in the Japanese film Audition. Dean Wareham is one obvious influence, so it's no surprise to find a cover of Galaxie 500's "Strange," which is as atomospheric and warm as the original. "Three Ears" bursts with abrasive tension that recalls the Pixies, including heavily distorted vocals buried beneath contorted guitar. Final cut "Bar Song" ambles along with assistance from a musical saw and floating pedal steel guitar. Elk City's creations take odd turns that can disconcert but are ultimately intriguing, with sober stories that, thankfully, are never too self-absorbed.--Doug Simpson
DIW Magazine: (5 of 6 pitchforks) Elk City have crammed a whole album's worth of textural beauty into this five-song EP. Opening with the nine-minute epic "Take Me Out"--alternately abrasive and soothing in the Doug Martsh/Neil Young vein of marathon soloing--Peter Langland-Hassan unwinds gorgeously fluid guitar lines while trading lyrics with Renee LoBue. Their voices complementing each other wonderfully, they refuse to land on one sound for too long, with the calming pastoral vibes of "Turpentine" soon giving way to the crackling pop of "Three Ears" and an absolutely majestic cover of Galaxie 500's "Strange." Going out on a volley of spooky singing saw and eerie steel guitar, "Bar Song" brings the song cycle to an appropriate finale with an icy lullaby. Not a stray second in 25 minutes.--Matt Fink
Amplifier: Former Melting Hopefuls Ray Ketchem and Renee LoBue have hit alternative pop pay dirt with this shimmering EP of sonic psycho-folk songs wrapped in glossy choruses, icy romantic vocals, brooding melodies and shards of avant-guitar. Venus in Furs anyone? Recommended for fans of Tex Wagner, Grandaddy and My Bloody Valentine. --Tom Semioli
Shredding Paper: Elk City call themselves "electrofolk" but I would jettison that term if I were them. It limits the richness of their palate, which spans all the painfully tender regions of indie rock and noise pop. The magnificent opener "Take Me Out" is 9 minutes long, but it flies by as enjoyably as a 30 second Rober Pollard toss-off. As tight as the band's performances are, they sound natural and spontaneous like a bunch of seasoned musicians picking up their instruments and jamming at a friend's house. Lyrics like "your brother and you/I know you are close/you both like the Who/you both like the Kinks," are delivered even more droll than they read, if you can believe it. This is the kind of music where the individual elements, while pleasant, are nothing in comparison to the larger sound created through their intersection.
Elk City are that strange animal that lives in the dark corner behind the leather bar, licking itself and pacing back and forth. They're not that pathological, but they're not quite all there either.--John
Tower Pulse: (4 Stars) Elk City's little-heard 2000 debut, Status, announced a promising new rock band in need of refinement. The New York City trio's laid-back approach recalled forebears such as the Velvet Underground and Galaxie 500, but the songs and execution could've used grounding. The Sea Is Fierce not only secures what had eluded Elk City on its debut, but moves the band ahead considerably--no mean feat for a five-song EP. Renee LoBue plays a Fender Rhodes piano bass and sings with the sort of alluring distance of Polly Jean Harvey or Carol van Dyk of Bettie Serveert, and she anchors the nine-minute opener "Take Me Out" as it drifts from a mellifluous rock song into something more dramatic and powerful. Guitarist Peter Langland-Hassan ducks in and out as well, singing through an effects box to lend the song a ghostly counterbalance. He also sings lead on the spellbinding, subdued "Turpentine," leaving the machines behind and revealing a nuanced voice of his own. Hitting its stride, Elk City even takes on Galaxie 500's "Strange," turning it into a gritty punk number tempered with the unconfined joy of a band discovering greatness.--Richard A. Martin
Entertainment Weekly: On this too-short EP, Brooklyn's dexterous Elk City seem determined to refashion many of the too-familiar indie-rock archetypes of the '80s and '90s. And in a mere five songs, they come close to accomplishing their goal: Fierce adeptly shifts from the dreamy, hymnlike "Turpentine" and "Take Me Out" to a bustling bit of Pixies thrash such as "Three Ears"--all in under half an hour. --Brian M. Raftery 11/16/01
The Village Voice: ""Fragile as a communion wafer and as street-urchin sweet as Moe Tucker circa that third Velvets album, Elk City are the very model of insular indie-pop alienation." 9/28/01
Time Out New York: "Elk City's lush pop often makes us think of Galaxy 500, so imagine our surprise when we discovered that the trio's new EP, The Sea Is Fierce (WARM), includes a well-played if not terribly distinctive cover of G500's 'Strange.' The EP is quite pretty as a whole, too." 9/28/01
Basement Life: "NY's Elk City is one of the more sonically pleasing acts around, and though few seem to have heard of them yet, their original sounds and experimental approach should only serve to gain them more than the critic's acclaim that they've already earned. The three-piece act makes for a deceiving listen, packed with drums, shakers and handclaps, bass and guitars that run from restrained cleanliness to soaring indie rock noise, and male and female vocals that interact seamlessly.
On the record's opening opus, the nine-minute plus "Take Me Out," Peter Langland-Hassan (vocals, guitar and other instruments), and Renee LoBue (vocals and bass) weave their incredibly melodic strains over the course of a slow and eerie buildup reminiscent of a less technologically obsessed Grandaddy. As marching drums spatter the background of the track, the two concoct wonderful harmonies until noisy and no less engaging distortion ridden rock ushers in a powerful finale.
Alternating between soft and hard rock on the next four tracks of the disappointingly short EP, Elk City prove they've got true songwriting skills and plenty of heartfelt lyrical ideas. It's no surprise that the group's new home is on Atlanta's Warm Recordings, where they are among similarly skilled acts like Azure Ray and Crooked Fingers, the latter act's subtle strength being called to mind on the loose but mesmerizing "Turpentine". Less expected is the nearly Kim Deal and Black Francis-like vocal interplay of "Three Ears," but if Elk City prove anything on The Sea Is Fierce it's that they have plenty of musical approaches and they are pretty damn good at all of them." -Peter D'Angelo
Creative Loafing: "New York trio Elk City combine amplified folk and controlled recklessness in the slow-building tradition of New York's archetypes, the Velvet Underground or descendants such as Luna and Yo La Tengo.
Drummer Ray Ketchem, singer/ bassist Renee Lobue and singer/ guitarist Peter Langland-Hassan made their mix of dream-pop drones known with an already accomplished 2000 debut, Status, that featured everything from reverb-washed guitar to melodica to buzzing bass synth. But it was the vocal interchanges of Lobue and Langland-Hassan -- hers naked, from soothing to ragged; his laconic per indie-rock tradition -- that were the most effective and affect-ing instruments.
Now Elk City return with an aggressive five-track EP, The Sea is Fierce, on Athens label Warm (making it Warm's first non-Southeastern act). The set opens up with "Take Me Out," a strum-and- storm nine-minute number, the kind of song that could kill lesser bands. But Elk City already proved their ability to keep momentum and attention across epic-length songs, so "Take Me Out" unfolds admirably. From there, the band runs from amiable to antagonistic -- from placid, pastoral pop to an appropriate cover of Galaxie 500's "Strange" that doesn't so much redo the song as do it justice." -Tony Ware
The Mac Weekly: Personal revelation time: it's usually really hard for a band to win me over once I've decided they suck. NYC act Elk City had left me unimpressed on last year's full-length debut, Status. I wasn't in the market for a watered-down Yo La Tengo, and that's what I thought they were. A quick listen to their new EP has proven at least one thing though: I am a very stupid man. I'll have to rummage through the stacks to find Status now, because The Sea is Fierce has me strongly revising my take on the band.
Usually EP's are not a good value. Who really wants to spend all that money on five songs? Elk City make it worth your while by throwing in some epic numbers (the opening "Take Me Out" hits the nine minute mark), and making sure the rest of the songs hold up in the quality department. Singer/guitarist Peter Langland-Hassan attacks his fretboard like a man possessed on the extended outro to "Take Me Out." Few people outside of Sonic Youth and Neil Young have reached grander heights from channeling feedback than Hassan does here.
Singer/bassist Renee Lobue's voice plays perfectly off of Langland-Hassan's on throughout the EP and Elk City appear to be making a run at the coveted (albeit lightly contested) "best male/female indie-rock vocal duo title."
Elk City stand out thanks to dark brooding vocals, a cool late-night vibe, and big pop hooks. Rarely are these three elements ever evident in the same band, let alone the same song. Hey, Elk City, thanks for making me look like a jack-ass for doubting you.