Soundtracks For Queer Pleasure: Elkka Interviewed

"In moments of extreme vulnerability amazing things can happen..."

For someone who’s had such an influence on the house music scene in recent years, it can come as a surprise that Emma Kirby hasn’t had a full album out yet. Under the moniker Elkka, the Welsh musician has released a number of EPs including 2021’s acclaimed ‘Euphoric Melodies’, DJ’d at Glastonbury, been tipped by everyone from TSHA to Mary Anne Hobbs, and even founded her own record label, femme culture. Her debut album ‘Prism Of Pleasure’ feels like a culmination of all that experience, but in many ways it’s also a new approach.

“Writing and recording an album felt very different,” says Kirby, nestled at her desk in a bright yellow hoodie. “I wanted to make sure I’d been vulnerable and explored all areas. In moments of extreme vulnerability amazing things can happen.” One such moment came in October of 2023, when Kirby’s father passed away unexpectedly in the midst of making her new album. Such a sudden, enormous grief could easily have derailed the project. In Elkka’s case, she absorbed the grief into her work, writing one of the album’s most powerful songs, ‘Right Here’, on the day of her dad’s funeral.

“I was sitting at the kitchen table hours before my dad’s funeral, waiting anxiously to go. It almost felt quite selfish at that moment, but I think I needed a way to express something that was unexpressed – inexpressible,” she continues. The track centres on a sampled vocal from First Choice’s ‘I’ll Stay Right Here’, though for much of the rest of the album Kirby’s front and centre as a vocalist, a role she’s also taken on in live performance.

For Kirby, expression through music is one which is closely related to other kinds of expression, and to other kinds of pleasure. Kirby’s queer identity is central to her music and she enlisted queer sexuality expert Oli Lipski as a creative consultant for ‘Prism of Pleasure’. The result is a record that charts all the highs and lows of intimacy, sounding both diverse and thoroughly cohesive.

In many ways, that diversity reflects something Kirby feels is still lacking in the industry as a whole. “You do see that there are a lot more diverse line-ups than there were, but it’s still pretty shit. I think these things come in trends, people hop on board, and then it goes back again. That’s what needs to not happen,” she says. Asked whether it can be limiting to be “pinned” and hemmed in as a queer artist, she confesses she faces the opposite problem: “Sometimes I get frustrated if that gets missed, because maybe I don’t present in a way that makes it obvious to people that I’m queer. I’m very proudly queer. And I didn’t have that growing up, so pin me!”

Words: Tom Kingsley

Photography: Alex Lambert

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