This is Will's seventh post-lockdown gig review, as always he did not receive payment or press tickets for this, just went as a punter and felt like there was a story there. You can read his other ones here
Elkka only played her first live (ie: non-DJ) gig in the summer of 2020. I caught the end of her set when she supported Jon Hopkins, Moderat and Max Cooper back in October, and thought it was awesome, the music was ecstatic and colourful, I preferred it to all the rest of the night’s tunes. It felt right for 2021, all the tension and build up and excitement and complexity of these times. She had recently delivered a fantastic DJ mix for RA, telling them in the accompanying interview that ‘I love both DJing and performing live but I think live shows are that bit more personal and vulnerable for me. I sing on some tracks here and there and that connects with people on a different level, I believe.’ I really liked her Euphoric Melodies EP, and its follow-up Harmonic Frequencies, so when a headline gig at Corsica Studios came up I snatched up a couple of tickets. I invited my mate ‘M’ with whom I used to share a flat, both of us have taken on more time consuming jobs since then and have spent considerably less time mucking about in the kitchen or the dancefloor, so it seemed like a good time to catch back up.
Now the last time I went to Corsica Studios for a gig (as opposed to a 6am-finish clubnight), it was for Mansur Brown. It was an intimate, sold out gig like this one, with fans gathered in a tight cluster beneath the stage. We all love to feel close to the artist, but I often find tight crowds awkward and uncomfortable, that other kind of intimacy where you’re packed up against people who are all looking out of the crowd and into something else, like you're queuing up for something. I also feel uncomfortable when my big head blocks someone else’s view, especially as I really don’t like having the back of someone’s head up against my face either. That Mansur Brown gig was one of them, my gig buddy was super late, we were stood in a kind of bottleneck at the back of the room (which confusingly seemed to contain as many people as the main room itself). At these kinds of gigs it sometimes feels like you’ve turned up to strengthen your bond to the artist, but you’ll enjoy listening to the music more when you take it into a different setting, when you can sit down, go for a run, dance around in your room.
This is awkwardness can be exacerbated by the whole post-covid social awkwardness situation, and also by gigs that aren't visually engaging, when those little bits of perspective that you do get don’t quite justify the squeeze of the crowd. The lead singer from Franz Ferdinand once commented on the acts popular whilst his band was coming up in the early 00s, how they wanted to bring some showmanship to a scene full of blokes standing at laptops, semi-motionless, watched by a motionless crowd. At their worst, live synthesizer gigs can be like watching someone playing video games without being able to see the screen. At their best they can be, well, they can be all sorts of things. Back in my first ever Loose Lips piece in 2018, I wrote that ‘at their best, live electronic performances can help fans respect and explore the human musicianship that goes into making it.’ I think what I was trying to say was that you can watch a human in a properly explorative, creative state, free to the tap directly into their own inspiration. A state where, as described by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude.' These musical performances can channel the classic dance music emotions of excitement and tension, and other feelings too. Seeing someone press a switch and immediately feeling the music in their head flood into yours, that’s another kind of intimacy.
But yeah, like I said I really didn’t want to get bottlenecked again, especially as M is even taller than me, so I suggested we get to the gig really early, so early that even with M turning up 1 hour late it was still easy for us to nab a spot to the side of the space and near the front, where we could clearly see the gig without blocking anyone’s view. I didn’t mind M being late, he gave me enough warning that I was able to switch part of my journey from bus to walk, and enjoy listening to this amazing project (listen to it soon before it gets taken down!) that Benji B and Virgil Abloh put together their Virgil’s last ever Louis Vuitton show, creatively directing a collaboration between Tyler the Creator, legendary Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai and the first ever all-BAME orchestra, the Chineke! Orchestra. It’s amazing, I thoroughly recommend it, and it was a great thing to listen to before the absolutely total opposite was presented by Elkka, one vision presented by one woman with a set of machines and a microphone, set up on a stage about a foot or so above the ground.
It wasn’t just Elkka's singing that made the show feel intimate, it was clear that she was actually feeling this music. It’s not that she was dancing, so much as she was moving around the instruments and allowing the music to move through her. At one of my favourite moments she kind of looked like she was stood facing into gale force winds at a cliff’s edge, staying connected to the synth by the tips of her fingers. The function of this music that she’s aiming for very universal, music to heal to, music to re-energise you, memories of connection and burnt orange vibes to pull the sunshine into your lockdown bedroom and get you back on your feet. When I say that the show felt intimate, I don’t mean it in the sense of a singer songwriter sharing personal experiences, it was intimate like the ‘peace be with you’ and touch of hands at church, mutual intimacy that gives both participants direction for their own private moments.
It’s like how both of Elkka's EP cover artworks feature photos of her with her eyes closed, the focus is not just on her, but on the practice of getting close to own your essence. I could try and go into more of my memories of the gig, which tracks sounded best and the story of how I jussst missed out on a swig from the bottle of Tequila that she passed into the crowd, but it's not the story of the night that I particularly wanted to share in this review; I went to a gig, enjoyed it, had a little dance with a good friend of mine, got a McPlant with him at Waterloo afterwards and parted with a hearty hug, we both had a great time. The story that I found more interesting was the way that Elkka was able to deliver a performance that felt really pure and powerful and direct, the product of genuinely valuing the healing powers of music. As M once said to me, 'what I care about is the beat and what it does to me.' The gig was great, I'm really excited to see what Elkka does next.