In the nearly 25 years since Chicago-based luthier Rob Elrick first began building basses, the plain-spoken Berklee grad has put his name on a wide variety of instruments, from straight-up workhorses to over-the-top showcase pieces. Across the pond, British bassist/educator/ writer Steve Lawson, best known perhaps for his effects-heavy solo/looping sets, has brought his multi-genre approach to 16 instrumental albums and a wide variety of gigs, usually with the help of semi-hollow Modulus 6-strings. It should be no surprise, then, that an instrument co-designed by Lawson and Elrick would be one of a kind.
The e-volution Gold Series SLC, a meticulously customized Elrick Gold Series 6-string, represents several firsts for Elrick. It’s the first Gold Series bass to feature a full-chambered semi-hollow body, medium scale (33"), 17mm string spacing, throughbody string option, passive controls, custom Aero single-coil pickups, 3-way pickup selector, an “interruptor button,” and glow-in-the-dark side dots. The SLC has such an unusual combination of options that it demanded its own unique designation.
The SLC’s 33" scale and 17mm spacing are a boon for players who favor chords, as Lawson does, but it also hints at how deliberately Elrick built the bass. Recognizing that the tone-shaping circuits in Steve’s effects chain are far more discrete than any onboard preamp powered by a 9-volt battery, Elrick kept the SLC passive. Larry Pollack satisfied Lawson’s request for single-coils by creating custom Aeros that perfectly align with the SLC’s narrow string spacing at their specific pickup locations. The bass’ string-through-body option makes it possible for players to use standard-scale strings without having the fully wound part of a string wrap around the tuning posts. And Elrick clarifies that the chambered body is about Lawson’s sonic preference, not weight: In fact, he used soft maple to compensate for the loss of weight and responsiveness caused by extensive chambering.
Nevertheless, the SLC still weighs in at a petite 8.8 pounds, and it’s ridiculously handsome, from its matching headstock with black Hipshot Ultralite tuners and Elrick logo to its gorgeous Macassar ebony fingerboard unfettered by inlays. A maple block links the body and neck above the matching Aero pickups, each melting into a walnut top adorned with just three black knobs, a single switch, and a button. The hand-carved curves are accentuated, like chocolate sauce on a creamy soufflé, by the line where the dark walnut top meets the lightbrown maple body. Turn it over, and the walnut is invisible, a vision of perfection with just five neck bolts and six ferrules for the string-through body.
THE SOUND & THE FURY
Plugged in and strung with .030–.130 Elrick nickels, the SLC boasted aggressive highs and big lows, while the Aeros had surprisingly strong mids. The tone knob offered access to plenty of flavors, from baritone guitar-like chords farther up the C string to thunderous, well-defined lows on the lowest open string, which reset my mediocre expectations of a passive, 33"-scale B. The chambered body contributes to a less focused attack that’s balanced, Elrick says, by the bolt-on neck. No wonder he prefers semi-hollow bodies for fretless instruments—close listening revealed subtle note bloom and decay with the slightest hint of “air.”
The SLC’s controls are straightforward but unusual: volume for each pickup, master tone, 3-way pickup selector switch, and a flush-mounted “interruptor” button. Setting pickup volumes and using the selector switch allowed me to quickly change tone on a dime, and the push-button interruptor—a momentary kill switch—facilitated on-the-fly stuttering effects (or quick muting). The “heel-less” design gave me smooth access to the highest frets, and I found the C well integrated with the rest of the strings.
As with any custom instrument, some of Lawson’s particular choices may not work for everyone. I found the 17mm string spacing a bit narrow, and I didn’t have much use for the interruptor button. (Elrick is open, of course, to building SLC’s with wider string spacing, active electronics, and other options.) Despite my quibbles, though, there’s no denying that the SLC sounds surprisingly big and flexible. Its shorter scale was a thrill, especially in first position, and its killer looks never got old.
The SLC is a supreme example of craftsmanship in the service of a singular vision. Impressively, it also bears the marks of both its co-creators, successfully navigating the fine line between outrageous and outstanding on its way to high-class versatility.
e-volution Gold Series SLC Bolt-on
Direct 4-string, $5,100; 5-string, $5,300; 6-string, $5,500; 7-string, $5,700 (includes Elrick Vectra molded hardshell case)
Pros Great looks, stunning craftsmanship, great passive tone
Cons “Interruptor” button isn’t for everyone
Bottom Line A singular, versatile work of bass art.
Body Semi-hollow soft maple, with marbled claro walnut top
Neck Three-piece quartersawn maple (with two-way trussrod)
Neck width at nut 2"
Scale length 33"
Fingerboard Macassar ebony
Fingerboard radius 16"
Frets 24 medium
Nut Corian w/zero-fret and string retainer
Pickups Aero single-coils with matching wood pickup covers
Controls Passive volume/volume/tone with “interruptor” switch + 3-way pickup selector
Tuners Hipshot Ultralite
Bridge Hipshot A-style/string-through body, with fixed saddles from the Elrick bridge
Weight 8.8 lbs.
Made in USA