Little information can be found online about Black Elk, a group who just released their debut record entitled Sparks. And if the band continues to release albums as mundane as this one, one cannot picture them attracting much more attention.
Sparks, in many ways, felt like an uninspired, more boring version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s classic album Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to the Heavens. The similarities between Sparks and Lift Your Skinny Fists are absolutely uncanny. Both albums feature lovely string arrangements, backwards guitar loops, subtle electronic noise selections, and droning guitar backgrounds. Black Elk has even added creepy spoken word portions to the last half of the album, just like the ones that Skinny Fists had. All of these attributes make for a lush ambient sound that is consistent on the entire album.
But following the formula of a classic will not necessarily get you a classic. Black Elk’s Sparks is tiresome and one of the most unremarkable albums of recent memory. There are no discernible changes in structure on this album – if I was not staring at the track listing on my music player, I had no idea if the song had changed. And though some of the string arrangements were quite well done, they were repetitive and not interesting to any degree. The album is also quite short, which presents a problem – the band really takes no time to explore their sound within tracks, but simply repeat the same types of sounds until the eventual end of the record.
The comparisons to the famous Godspeed You! Black Emperor album should be a compliment to Black Elk, as the type of music they are trying to make clearly stems from good intentions. But if Skinny Fists is an independent classic, then Sparks is elevator music for hipsters; familiar in style but undeniably mediocre and unimportant.