Sometimes, musicians are faced with a tough choice between pursuing their art and eating. Justin Stein, who goes by the handle Elk, was faced with exactly that choice when the Brooklyn bedroom pop musician had to decide whether he should replace the computer he used in music mashing or pay the rent. As it would turn out, creating sounds won the battle as Stein hightailed it back to his parent’s house back in Michigan with a new computer in hand. However, he was forced to take over his sister’s bedroom as his old room had a new occupant: a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s. The end product of what must have been a very uncomfortable living situation is Elk’s very first full-length album, Let’s Get Married, which is being self-released on cassette and as a digital download (with vinyl copies to follow in March). It’s an initially off-putting record, one that recalls latter day Animal Collective on pixie dust, in that it is built up largely of continuous loops that, at times, go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and (are you bored of this sentence yet?) on and on and on and on.
Two of the seven tracks here eclipse the eight-minute mark, which is just one indicator of a certain formlessness and lack of focus to the album. In fact, Let’s Get Married is more of a mood piece as there’s a droning quality to this record that you’re either going to love to bits or mercilessly hate. I’m going to err somewhere in the middle and offer that the album has its hidden rewards, from the folksy “Moonjellies” to the Talking Heads-like, Tropicana-flavoured, world beat infused rhythms of “Volleyball” to the Beach Boys-esque harmonies of closer “Crush”. Granted, the record’s a little too all over the map at times – fragments of songs collide within songs and the transitions aren’t seamless – but one has to admire Elk’s stubbornness at pursuing his dreams of crafting experimental pop in conditions that must have been less than ideal. It might not congeal as one would hope, but Let’s Get Married is an interesting experiment and conjures up the sort of arms-length intimacy you get by listening to a far-away stations on your bedroom clock radio late at night as their signals fade in and out. Adventurous listeners won’t regret this musician’s choice to forgo a roof over his head of his own to create a brave new sonic soundscape, but, let’s be frank, Let’s Get Married is an acquired taste.