If you wondered why Pitchfork’s Ryan Schreiber moved to Brooklyn last year–because, you know, all of us wait with bated breath to learn about the Exalted Imam of indie-rock’s next move–a band called “Elika” is one good reason why. Brooklyn’s ongoing underground rock renaissance, responsible for such wicked miracles as TV on the Radio and The Honorary Title, continues to deliver some of the greatest music you’ve never heard. For Elika, that anonymity ends with the release of their lush and ambient debut, Trying Got Us Nowhere (yeah, join the club, dude.)
With a sound that Ulrich Schnauss describes as “an incredibly exciting, radical fusion of shoegaze and electronica,” the band covers enough musical terrain to map the globe, naming influences anywhere from Brian Wilson to Pat Benatar, Nico to Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch. We might add Depeche Mode, Kate Bush and Love and Rockets while we’re at it. The duo that comprises Elika–with Brian Wenckebach on guitar and programming and Evangelia Maravelias’s vocals silvered in the restrained radiance of the song–join forces to produce a kind of modernized Tears for Fears album that leans into the sounds of the past to envision their possible future. But they’ve sent Roland Orzabald a well-earned retirement check in the mail and replaced him with Eva’s hypnotically airy vocals, and they’re not looking back.
This is no retro band; Elika’s vision is far more independent than derivative. And if the intentions behind a name like Fiercely Indie Records, Elika’s label, is that their brand of indie boasts big dripping wolf fangs and the claws of a cougar, they did well to prove the point by signing these two. While Benatar’s crystal wail does flourish somewhere in the distance of Eva’s vocal delivery, she tempers that gargantuan influence with a whispery restraint and grace that rivals Dolores O’Riordan. The ghost of Nico may haunt the aching and eerie “To the End,” but a lambent burst of synth and guitar ignite the song into something wholly Elika’s own. Brian Wenkebach, for his part, channels the atmospherics of guitar luminaries like Nick McCabe, Robert Quine or Paul Reynolds while leaving little doubt as to whose sound he serves–his.
Elika themselves describe their sound as “blissed-out ambience with head-nodding beats that range from Downtempo to Trance to IDM.” That’s about right, and it’s this bold union of influence and authenticity that promises to help Elika see the day when you don’t have to be from Brooklyn to know who they are. The peculiarly engaging power of their debut album, Trying Got Us Nowhere, guarantees that it won’t be long now.