Artwork by Barry Elkanick
Some of the best writers are the laconic ones, the ones who sculpt with sparsity, whose instruments imbricate themselves just as deeply into silence as they do into sound. On In the Young Shadow of Girls in Flower, quietly released earlier this year on Houston's Sutra label, Barry Elkanick of Chalk plays, sings, and composes with a concise conviction, a muted and minimalist virtuosity. The cassette, barely over 20 minutes and decidedly sparse, feels infinitely spacious as its seven tracks yawn and stretch and palpitate into each other. From the chamber of lush guitar strumming of "Harmony in Red" to the plush synth territories mapped out by "Plateau," Chalk inscribes hollow spaces where resonating instruments and Elkanick's muffled vocals alike accrete into a sonic terrain as milky and commodious as his visual work. When Elkanick delivers the hooking question-chorus of "Dark Seam," the unintelligibility of his words colors the haptic indeterminacy of the record's landscape itself: it's impossible to tell whether Elkanick is talking about a "dark seam," a "dark scene," or a "dark seem." On the track, seeming becomes a scene becomes a seam that swathes sign and sound and silence into a space of pure feeling. For a record whose coy title warps that of Proust's second volume of his enormous opus In Search of Lost Time, In the Young Shadow of Girls in Flower condenses the bourgeouis loquacity of one of modernism's foremost belletrists into something more tactile in its immediacy, something dry of excess yet impossibly sticky—something that coats the hands. Like chalk, perhaps.
Find the remaining cassettes of the limited release here, and stream the record in full below.