"In the fall of 2017, Drew Gardner, the electric guitarist in the guitar duo Elkhorn, had a life-changing, mystical experience eighty feet underwater while scuba diving in Belize. Exploring the lush barrier reef fifty miles off the coast, he saw a particularly intriguing lionfish, and, mesmerized by its great beauty, reached out his hand to this wondrous animal.
Lionfish are gorgeously proportioned, elaborately decorated beasts, plumed in the manner of Quetzalcoatl with eighteen hypodermic spines, each holding a payload of powerful neurotoxic venom. Making contact at the exact point where man and God fail to touch in Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam", the lionfish injected Gardner in the tip of his right index finger. At that moment, Gardner says, “the spirit of all creation was delivered instantly to the core of my heart.”
Gardner brought back samples of the venom and shared it with the other half of Elkhorn, the twelve-string acoustic guitar-fingerpicking Jesse Sheppard. Raised by a father with a storied career as an expert psycho-pharmacologist, Sheppard had inherited extensive expertise on the preparation and testing of psychoactive drugs. He quickly refined the venom into a powdered form just as potent as the original.
As a band, Elkhorn spent several weeks experimenting with different dosages of the drug, using it to fuel long electric/acoustic guitar improvisations exploring the fabric of the universe from within the intertwining spaces of mind and sound. As they experimented, it soon became clear that Gardner’s right index finger would continue to bear a scar from his encounter with the lionfish, to which he credits a permanent improvement in his guitar tone.
At 11:09PM on the evening of December 2nd, 2017, a day now known as “Lionfish Day,” Gardner and Sheppard each snorted two enormous lines of lionfish powder from the surface of a mirror adorned with the silkscreened image of Bill Kreutzmann’s face. They then proceeded to capture the recording you have in your hands at the band’s Sharktooth studio in New York City.
Each of these two extended improvisations, “Lion” and “Fish,” were timed to correspond with the peak effect of the lionfish venom as it opened and focused their minds, connecting them with the ambiguous beauty, danger and mystery of nature."
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