Elfin Saddle – Wurld Soundtrack

January 01, 1970





The members of Elfin Saddle, out of Montreal, are as much concerned with the
visual and performing arts as with music. On the one hand, the band’s founders
Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie (with help from Nathan Gage of Shapes and Sizes
on bass and tuba, Nicholas Scribner and Kristina Koropecki), compose delicate
reveries of folk-banjo, accordion and polyrhythmic percussion that fall easily
into line with fellow Constellation artists Godspeed! You Black Emperor. On the
other, they construct equally intricate sculptures and installations, little
universes teeming with tiny representations of animal and plant life. The Wurld project combines these
complementary arts in a variety of ways.


At its heart is the Wurld film, a 23-minute meditation on biological growth and civilization. Over the
course of the film, a barren patch of dirt sprouts ferns and plant life, first,
then a variety of rustic manufactured structures. The piece is filmed in stop
motion, so that not only the living things (a snail, the plants, some furry,
weasel-ish creatures) seem to move, but also windmills, houses and fanciful
wooden implements. Technology develops as you watch the piece, first in
primitive wooden structures, then metal and fire. By the end, the natural
elements of the sculpture are nearly crowded out with small plastic items. There
is a growing sense of decay and dissolution, and the piece ends, fittingly
enough with static on a blank television screen. The whole biosphere, if that’s
what it is, seems intricately interconnected and infinitely complex, and
finally pushed over the edge by the relentless force of development. The music
which accompanies the film is, likewise, playful, organically rooted, and
rhythmically propulsive at first, but gradually taken over by the hiss and
clatter of mechanical sounds.


In addition to the Wurld film, the DVD also includes footage from a live performance at Montreal’s
Contemporary Art Museum, where Honda and McKenzie and
Gage perform in front of an ever shifting background of filmed sculpture. There
are also audio files for the Wurld soundtrack, included in both .WAV and .MP3 format, and some shorter films that
provide closer views of Honda’s art installations. The packaging for all these
components is quite beautiful, and includes, tucked away in a pocket, some
postcard-sized photos of the Wurld installation.


A work like Wurld is hard to judge by ordinary “Is this a good record or not?” standards, since
the music is only one piece of the package and makes sense mainly in the
context of the visual and performance elements. Still, even on headphones, the
three audio tracks are hauntingly beautiful, particularly the final “Tree in
Dark Water/Sinking Celebration”, with its unearthly vocals and sad, stately
banjo picking. You could certainly think of your own pictures for these songs –
or simply imagine Honda, delicate and pale, lifting her head over her
accordion, to sing it. Still the fact that there’s a whole universe living
around these songs, imagined in detail and constructed with care, makes them
even better. This Wurld is definitely
worth exploring.


in Dark Water/Sinking Celebration” JENNIFER

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