Evagelia Maravelias and Brian Wenckebach are Elika. The Brooklyn-based duo drenches computerized beats in lyrics filled with emotional depth and constant opposition. Vocalist Maravelias has an elegant Madonna-like baritone to offset the synthetic atmosphere surrounding her. That atmosphere is created mostly by Wenckebach through a stream of glitchy drums and vibrating synthesizer. In their third full-length studio effort, Always the Light has ditched the catchy-riffs of songs such as “Summer” off Snuggle Bunnies. Instead, the duo opted for a “slow and steady wins the race” approach.
This album doesn’t have much to offer in the realm of diversity. The downtempo, spacious sounds are stagnant, while the short songs blend together a little too easily. As Always the Light progresses, it never seems to hit a really high point or even a low point for that matter. It’s difficult to differentiate the songs from one another, but that could be intentional. As a constant loop rotates, Maravelias’ poetic lyrics drone and a simple drumline rolls in. But unlike their previous releases, Elika sticks to a strict electronica-shoegaze formula.
Straying away from poppier tendencies and more organically produced sound, Always the Light is much heavier and condensed. Starting off in “Stay Beside Me,” layers of downtempo beats loop in a constant circle that seems to last the length of the album. After a while, the vocals begin to turn stale and the hazy beats grow tiresome. Maxing out at mere 33 minutes, it’s hard to tell when the album ends and when it begins.
Beyond sound, the duo seems to have themes figured out. Based around the death of Maravelias’ father, “No One Gets Lost” unfolds into a dreampop ballad of love, finding yourself and hope. Her lyricism and vocals are bound with emotion, and in this track, they both shine. The song has peaks and crests. It opens and closes in a dreamlike state.
The second half of the album has a slightly more uplifting tone, as if “No One Gets Lost” is a turning point. Maravelias’ vocals open up a little bit, while Wenckebach uses lighter samples. The beats resonate through an ethereal world.
From start to finish, Always the Light stays on the same path and doesn’t stray too much. The emotion that went into this album is powerful, but the lack of character leaves a mundane aftertaste. Where the album lacks in texture, it makes up for in depth. Elika creates a solid rendition of space, and this album seems like it would translate much better in a live performance.
Elika – Always the Light tracklist:
- “Stay Beside Me”
- “We Had It All”
- “Waiting Room”
- “Count Your Steps”
- “All My Wishes”
- “Never Touch the Sky”
- “No One Gets Lost”
- “You and Me”
- “A Year Alone”