One of the main responsibilities of the music writer, it could be argued, is it inform, entertain and assist the reader in choosing pieces of work which could be to their taste in terms of both musical content and the context from which it was produced.
Formed in 2007 in Munich, and essentially the work of Pesten and Nathanael, Thränenkind (which can be translated as “child of tears”) are described in their press release as “vegan and/or straight edge and share interests in the ideas of green anarchism, civilization critic and left wing politics”. So this then may be considered the musical context, whilst the album itself follows a narrative based on the story of two siblings on a journey to their father’s funeral. Whilst on this journey they encounter old friends, memories and a variety of emotional twists and turns.Some may shy away from music that is described in such terms, for the listener who is receptive to dense musical concepts intertwined with carefully considered political ideals, “The Elk” is a rewarding album to discover. To listen to purely on a musical level, with no knowledge of its background, “The Elk” is a handsome collection of songs and instrumentals pieces. One cannot help but conjure up images of a dark, ominous Bavarian landscape in its expansive use of instrumentation and dynamics. The vocals are brutal yet somehow longing and fraught.
The opening ‘Monument’ exists within a framework of distant guitar lines, isolated percussion and desperate vocals barked over each layer of sound, whilst ‘Just Another Way of Expressing Defeat’ features extensive instrumental passages that ache with anguish and melancholia in equal measure. ‘My Transparent Heart’ continues musically the overall mood of profundity and seems to implore the listener to digest and consider its themes and messages. ‘Today, the Sea (Anja’s Song)’ and ‘Deleting Those Three Words’ bring together the brutal vocals, expansive instrumental arrangements and vocal samplings into a poignant mixture of ferocity and anguish. ‘This Story of Permanence’ raises the tempo slightly and brings the instrumental arrangements closer together before the album ends with the naively appealing title track with its brief, yet touching, tale of the experience of observing an elk in the woods.
One occasionally has the feeling that some tracks featured here could have been extended even further in length in order to sustain the momentum and develop the atmosphere. The album has been described elsewhere as “depressing” which is fair enough to a point, but fails to acknowledge the opportunities presented for personal reflection and contemplation.
At times “The Elk” is beautiful and delicate sounding whilst at other times it is fierce and imploring. These are the emotions, nevertheless, which may be evoked when dealing with the issues that Thränenkind are on “The Elk”, and in doing so reflect their individual political views and systems of belief. For some readers opinions such as this are irrelevant to the music, for others, this information informs the experience and gives significant perspective.