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Elkka - Harmonic Frequencies (Technicolour, 2021)

Elkka returns to the Technicolour imprint with yet another masterclass in surround sound euphoria, with tonnes of exciting blends, transitions and melodies wrapped up within four excellent rhythmic excursions.

The edge of the seat, the eternal baited breath, the consistency in the feeling of the unknown, all wrapped up in a gloriously euphoric bundle - that is some big time energy right there, and when artists bottle this most intangible of feelings, it always leads to the most incredible of experiences. Electronic music at its core is all encompassing, filtering itself out across numerous contexts, spaces and cultures, bound by a love of hardware, community and passion, and it is these various flows that feed into one another, lifting new scenes to the fore or capturing the imaginations of the next generation as they try to stamp their own identities within the vast network of releases. Within that vast sea, there are certain sounds that resonate from particular groups or individuals, which reach beyond and instigate a sense of dynamism that draws strength from multiple spaces, threads and audial environments, and the records that come forth from here are simply magical. Its a sign of a music maker that feels at ease with their own vision, a searching and continual branching out that revolves around a set structure but contains an elasticity which feels like it could accommodate anything. What comes forth is an inherently playful yet purposeful sound that treads the line very delicately between multiple audial spheres, a universe that bridges the divides that persist and occupies a space that thrusts Dance music and electronic music forward. A tiny step in the past, a sizeable presence within the current era, and a long shadow cast into the future, its the sort of music that feeds the mind and soothes the soul with its depth and vision, merging technicality with spontaneousness in such a way as to leave us constantly craving more. However this craving is often satisfied by just how much there is to explore within one record released within these kinds of parameters, and when the listenability is as great as the brilliance of the content, then the experience just sticks out even more. Thus there is a general alignment to these kinds of music makers, their journey laid bare from the off and the blueprint for what is to come next seemingly set in stone, yet remains consistently shifting the goalposts as to the possibilities of where the sound might find itself next. To be placed within this kind of world is to be blessed with sonics that enrich the senses, stretching out our visions beyond into the wide unknown, yet keeping our feelings firmly in the immediate surroundings. Be it in the club, at home or on the move, its music that flourishes no matter what context it finds itself within, and for us that is one of the best kinds of musical experiences going.

All of these feels - and much more - can be found deep within, atop the surface and flourishing through the middle of Emma Kirkby's compositions, who for the past couple of years or so has been dazzling with her unique and highly infectious take on Dance music. Kirkby releases under the alias Elkka, with the name supporting the entirety of her work so far, and whilst other producers might branch out with new names to support a differing thread of work, Kirkby has fitted an enormity of styles and influences under the Elkka name, and as a result the music truly sings atop the highest of mountain peaks. As a result, her music comes across with a blend of shades, tones and textures, with melodic exploration placed right at the front as a means of binding the background elements together. Each record has a distinctive emotional flow to it, bound together by an approach that feels indefinite in its ability to move the listener from its beginning towards the end, and as one track flows into the next we constantly feel renewed in our appreciation of Kirkby's abilities. The one element we always enjoy is the way in which she moves through the gears from point A to point B within a track, the transitions of which are pulled off expertly and in the most delightful of way. The interplays between the grooves and the melodies are always impressive, with the mergence of rhythms with intricate key sequences channelling deep into the mind and the body, before doing a number on the soul too. There's a joyousness to it all, a celebration, a seemingly endless array of uplifting feels that make the heart sing, a mirror to our happy times from times past and present, and certainly a soundtrack to our future moments of bliss. Her discography supports all of these notions, with many of her records worth highlighting, starting off with the bountiful feels of 'Full Circle', which landed in 2018; the wonderfully evolving and ever expanding feels of 'Every Body is Welcome', which arrived in 2019; the joyous uplifting anthems found on the aptly named 'I. Miss Raving./Bleep+' single release, which came out last year; and finally, one of our favourites from this year, 'Euphoric Melodies', a record that has really stayed with us due to its enriching audial language and outstanding dexterity. In all, Kirkby has built up a deeply intriguing world, one that contains a myriad of feels, tones and undercurrents, a universe that feels like it will constantly expand at a seconds notice, and to dip your head into it remains one of life's great feelings. Her music is so life affirming, bringing out the best in those who listen to it and allowing the feels to remain very much at the surface, getting pulled from left to right and back again within the most soothing of currents. No matter where you might find yourself, there's always much to invest within when her music starts playing, be it the emotions or the rhythms, there's plenty to unpack and dwell deep within, so why not go back a little bit in time and check the tunes out for yourself - a big old smile will emerge on your face when you do.

And now we arrive at her latest offering, 'Harmonic Frequencies', her second outing on the Technicolour imprint. From the off we get a sense of where Kirkby is looking to take the feels on this record, with all the tracks displaying a differing side to the emotion contained within. There's the choppy uptempo numbers, the slower ever growing movements, and all the moments inbetween, and as always we feel ourselves falling deep within these lush plains of expressionism, returning from them feeling emboldened and renewed. Kirby said that 'Euphoric Melodies' was a study of what made her feeling good, whilst this album is exploring the removal of those elements and the journey involved in having those elements back. From this angle, you really do see the concepts, with the previous record a definite celebration of the joys we feel when things in life are all present, correct and ever evolving, whilst this record very much feels like a blend of those same joys, but interspersed with more slowly growing and quietly growing tracks which help to piece together the ingredients we all need to feel fulfilled. It only makes our explorations of her music that more wonderful, and we think its about time to delve into this newest slice of brilliance of Elkka - so, without further delay, lets move through into the latest marvel she has created, and prepare ourselves to be further amazed....

Up first comes the title track, and this one begins with bags of energy throwing itself round the joint. The blend that emerges quite quickly is this distinctive vocal sample that chimes along up top, with a lightly fluctuating key sequence making big turns in and around the groove, with the various lines of inquiry taking turns to combine when the moment suits. An additional flute line comes into view, alongside some deep rave like chords that intersperse across the backdrop, and when all these elements come together its something special indeed. The drops in density and intensity make the experience all the more enchanting, particularly the extended break around the half way mark that really slows proceedings down and pushes things into some exciting new spaces. The track then grooves through without the vocal sample, but it all comes full circle for one final thrust of inventiveness to leave us with so much warmth in our hearts. This is dance music at its most expressive, for sure. Up next comes ‘Music To Heal To’, and this one begins quietly enough but with plenty to say. The kicks gently pulsate underneath a simmering array of delicate arpeggios and chimes, their conversations inspiring to the ears as the rhythm shifts the listener along, the melodies rooted in place but their complexity reaching far and wide, with the bass notes that chime into view adding much to the forward momentum. This sequencing is only added to as the further melodic flavours are added into the mix, the climax of which is the introducing of snares and hats to make the feeling utterly complete. From this point the track continues to evolve, with further mingling elements coming into the immediacy of our view, with these gorgeous dew like key notes mingle with intricacies that blend purpose with all manner of meaningful emotions. Its a orchestra like experience, one that moves with burning intensity from place to space, outlining a world that has much to say and says it so with nuance and intelligence. We get picked up, embraced and taken along on a ride that remains one of the most unbelievable we have heard all year, and there’s always time to go back for more.

Up next comes ‘Voices’, and this one heads right into the dance, full throttle style. The kicks and hats symbolise feverish rhythmic exclamations, whilst the vocal samples and melodics emphasise the need to explode with passion and emotion, and as a pairing the experience is very enticing already. These elements become the regular framework, but as always Elkka has some deftly balanced melodic sequences to tease out, and this occurs very nicely indeed, but in this track they are also used as a transitional element - bringing the song from one phase to the next, and it works very nicely indeed. The floating melodic element returns to provide yet another mergence into a new scene, where the kicks land particularly hard and the groove, and we are taken away into the spotlights and night skies of tomorrow. To wrap things up, we have ‘Escapism’, which takes things down to a rather still place to begin with. The sweeping melodies are reminiscent of bewildering light patterns that caress our eyes in the morning, where we awake and fall into a world that lives, breathes and starts to saunter along, and this feeling only intensifies as time passes with all manner of little elemental features sliding in and out of time and space, moving from the beguiling arpeggios through to the intensely warm and fuzzy chords, it all just works so beautifully. The meandering nature of certain elements gives the composition this ever shifting identity, its purpose and place moving from scenes we can imagine through to vibes that seem beyond our comprehension, and all of that works so very well indeed. A journey through healing and back to our natural state of being, who knows when things might get whole yet, but with records like this, at least we can find comfort that they will be - very, very soon. An absolute pearl of a record, this one.

Dance Music and Electronic music knows no bounds, and what boundaries do get set is very much up to the person making the music, their imagination and vision perhaps setting the imaginary line where one thing starts and the other ends. Some producers make it their goal to explore certain rhythms and melodic structures but push them to the extremes of possibility, taking the time to explore how sequences can be manipulated and criss crossed to create something new and invigorating. As Elkka, Emma Kirkby has been meandering between a plethora of genre styles, with her previous efforts highlighting a particular ability to convey in-depth moods via beautifully considered melodic structures and carefully constructed rhythmic lines. On her latest effort, she ups the emotional gains and indeed the depth of styles on display, with two slower burners found alongside her more well known uptempo beauties, and the balance is perfect, with the high octane numbers creating a whirlwind whilst the other tracks keep us grounded and inward looking. As an experience it unwinds, constricts then releases at all the right moments, a sound that feels at ease in the club but also crafts a meaningful experience when you just sit there, listening to it, attempting to capture every detail. You leave it behind feeling sublime, and we for one will continue to come back to this record time and time again. Another triumph from Elkka, and long may it continue.

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