Nerves / Familiarity is the first official start to Elskavon’s next album era, and it’s a representation not only of composer Chris Bartels’ sound over the years, but also a metaphorical look inside his mind. That is, one of contrast.

With Elskavon’s sound, there’s always been a contrast, and marriage, of grandeur and intimacy. Nerves / Familiarity is no exception. 

While it starts out quiet, the listener can immediately feel the enormity of Nerves. The sustained sound is that of Bartels slowly drawing a string of yarn across his old spinet piano’s strings. Only a minute and half in, the sound is thick and full, layered with falsetto vocals fed through modular synthesizers. It hasn’t taken long to be engulfed in the grandeur. 

However, as quickly as it arrives, there’s a departure. An intimate and rhythmic cassette texture, signaled by a slow tonic modulation, foreshadows a look at the second track - the contrast.

Familiarity begins with a bed of introspective notes and textures - mostly that of high piano notes and chopped up Rhodes improvisations. There’s a certain closeness with this sound, and a contrast to the large reverb-soaked fabric that leads Nerves. Then halfway through the song, there is a short build - an encore, if you will, to the grandeur of the first track.

Much like these songs and past Elskavon albums, there is a journey of contrasts with every creative turn for Bartels, finding himself deep in a whirlwind of excitement and fear, anticipation and anxiety, inspiration and frustration. And while being fully aware of the negative sides of that whirlwind, there’s an indescribable beauty and hope in the choice to keep writing, to keep moving. And to not simply run from the negatives, but to allow them to inspire, to motivate.

A creative journey should never be easy or comfortable. If it is, the other side will most certainly be lacking in the beauty and depth it so desires.

With this next album era, Bartels is choosing to embrace the contrast.