Elk City: The Sea is Fierce

[22 October 2001]

By Eden Miller

Elk City’s The Sea is Fierce EP is an odd mix. While the five songs here do bear a similarity to each other in terms of musical style, The Sea is Fierce is still all over the place. Experimentation seems to be the band’s goal here, and although this may be of interest to fans of Elk City, for casual listeners, it could be a bit off-putting. The Sea is Fierce is complex, a bit incomplete, but a strangely satisfying listen.

The epic “Take Me Out” opens the EP, with guitars circling around each other for a full minute before the haunted vocals of Renee LoBue take center stage, complimented by Peter Langland-Hassan’s modified whispers. This song is the centerpiece of The Sea is Fierce, building layers of atmosphere with extended instrumental breaks. At nine minutes, this song alone takes up about a third of the entire length of The Sea is Fierce, as if the four other songs just serve to showcase this one track.

The subdued playful sorrow of “Turpentine” takes Elk City’s moody modern rock and strips it down to its folk roots. The song is sadly reflective, given depth by the continuing vocal trade off of Langland-Hassan and LoBue. While not as strong as “Take Me Out”, “Turpentine” maintains the same tone. Once the noisy, ‘80s-garage rock of “Three Ears” begins The Sea is Fierce turns away from the mood that Elk City seemed so careful to build in the two previous tracks.

Rounding out the EP are Elk City’s heartfelt cover of Galaxie 500’s “Strange” and the mournful country stylings of “Bar Song”. Both songs are pleasant and executed with skill, but they lack the power of either “Take Me Out” or “Turpentine”. It is as if Elk City had recorded both these songs and knew that neither was suited for a place on a full-length album. It’s unfortunate that an EP that began with such promise ends with two songs that are essentially throwaways.

Throughout all of The Sea is Fierce, Elk City is forceful in its instrumentation, driving home emotions with passionate guitar playing and well-placed deluges of percussion. Elk City plays a like a band that is much heavier than its simple, sincere rock, and it suits the band’s overall mood well. While the band doesn’t emphasis its lyrics as much as some others do, they are still effortlessly insightful. “I am content thinking of you. I’m fine” LoBue sings mournfully on “Take Me Out” while she spits out “I’ve had my eye on that simple breeze / Blowing through the wind-swept trees” on “Three Ears”. The lyrics, although clear-cut, serve the band’s music well.

The Sea is Fierce speaks of the ability of Elk City, even when it doesn’t always reveal it. It is, after all, just an EP that seems like a collection of outtakes and bonus material that would never find its way onto an album. It’s not perfect, but it’s intriguing, and it gives listeners enough of a taste of Elk City that they will want more.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/elkcity-sea/