Arktik Lake Corruscates on Shimmer EP
It’s tough to gauge the top track on Arktik Lake’s debut Extended Player Shimmer, which is a problem most artists would do well to encounter. The titular work makes a strong case for holding that distinction for a couple reasons. It’s the fourth and final tune on this opus, giving it the last word (and a convincing one) as it rambles on at a brisk pace drenched—as all these cuts are—in a surfeit of guitars ranging from acoustic to electric to bona fide rhythm guitars.
There’s just something about “Shimmer” that makes it stands out from the others. Part of its appeal is its sheer happiness reflected in the melody of the leading electric guitar, which is reminiscent of the unalduterated delight found in some of Prince’s numbers, like “3 Chains O’ Gold”.
But the rhythm guitar likely hits hardest, especially when paired with the lyrical penchant of the lead singer (Marty Wilson-Piper) for verbalizing the profound as he does in his attempts to “chase that shiny cherubim guitar”. Plus the tune bears the distinction of rapidly shifting keys and melodies about every eight bars or so—which is a trait most of the songs share—but which works particularly well on “Shimmer”.
Still, once you’ve put an ear to “Misty Shore”, which launches this collection, it’s easy to understand why it’s the leadoff and has an immediate appeal as the frontrunner. The acoustic guitar plugging away at the base of nearly all these songs sounds exceptionally good on this one, even with the fervor of the huge electric guitar chords on top.
The vocals, however, may make some give the nod to “Shore” for the best of the bunch. The male vocalist’s chanting delivery is inextricably intertwined with that of the female vocalist, Olivia Wilson-Piper, and mixed so tightly it’s hard to tell them apart. It’s almost like Marty’s harmonizing with himself with an angelic, distant sound that’s certainly evocative of the mistiness alluded to in the title.
However, as entrancing as the vocals are on this and other songs, the best of the best on this album has to be “Hombre”. Imagine a song where you distinctly hear verses, bridges, and choruses—but with nary a vocal, all with the rushing crescendo and ebbing of a kaleidoscope of guitars racing with one another, sometimes coupled with an organ, the drums accelerating things every few bars. It’s rare to find an instrumental track that performs this well, or a group able to accomplish so much in four songs.