Elfin Saddle – Ringing for the Begin Again

January 01, 1970

(Constellation)

 

www.cstrecords.com

 

Although
Elfin Saddle is actually named for a variety of mushroom, the fairy-tale image
conjured by the band’s moniker is not seriously misleading. This Montreal-based
trio plays a gently psychedelic sort of junk-shop folk, with songs about
oceans, light and hammers. Its second album, Ringing for the Begin Again, suggests the Incredible String Band,
except that the lyrics most listeners won’t understand are not in some Celtic
tongue. They’re in Japanese, the native language of Emi Honda, who sings and
plays ukelele, drums, accordion and saw.

 

Honda’s
musical (and life) partner, Jordan McKenzie, plays a couple of those instruments,
and also guitar, banjo and xylophone. The third and newest member, Nathan Gage,
handles the low end, on both contrabass and tuba. This instrumentation produces
a cloud of tinkling and clanking, contrasted by sonorous bleats and drones that
are part Indian raga, part oom-pah band. The vocal counterpoint works much the
same way, with Honda singing in a schoolgirl soprano several registers above
McKenzie’s grownup baritone.

 

There’s
no point in pretending that Elfin Saddle is a tough-minded outfit. “Ooo,
sunlight matters,” announces McKenzie in “The Living Light,”
while Honda’s numbers include “Sakura,” “the story of a frenzied
blossom.” But the threesome’s music can blossom into something resembling
frenzy, as Honda and Mckenzie trade vocals (sometimes multi-tracked) over
insistent pitches and abundant percussion. The most ecstatic passages come in
such tracks as “Running Sheep” and “Muskeg Parade,” which
lack either English or words altogether. However much Elfin Saddle prize
flowers and sun, its best music simply exalts sound.

 

Standout Tracks: “Running
Sheep,” “Muskeg Parade” MARK JENKINS

 

 

 

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