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Elfin Saddle, "Ringing for the Begin Again"

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cover imageOn their second album, Jordan McKenzie and Emi Honda have created a mesmerising experience somewhere between revolution and fairytale. It is difficult to place it accurately in any standard musical taxonomy but with elements of folk, world music and a fierce rock and roll spirit, Elfin Saddle have created some of the most stirring songs to enter my ears recently. From my glib description, they sound on paper to be yet another freak folk act with their own novelty but they are much more than that.

 

Constellation

Ringing for the Begin Again begins like any other Constellation album, delicate and mournful strings on “The Bringer” by the label’s resident violinist Jessica Moss and gently hammered xylophone combine to make a beautiful and moving introduction to the album. McKenzie’s vocals sound like a lived-in version of Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, lilting in the rhythm of Moss’s bowing. His lyrics on this piece and elsewhere on Ringing for the Begin Again have a poetic quality that fits like a glove with the dreamy music. “The Living Light” is easily one of the best songs of the year; the driving rhythm combined with McKenzie’s almost religious singing makes a huge impression with each play through the album.

An entire album like this would be epic but Elfin Saddle have other, equally wonderful things to offer. Honda is the second vocalist in the group and sings exclusively in Japanese. Her songs have a very different tone to them compared to those sung by McKenzie, the music taking on a different beat to match the delivery of her carefully placed syllables. “Sakura” and “The Procession” have a delicate music box quality (although the presence of tuba on the latter track certainly beefs it up), Honda’s voice haunting the melodies. Honda’s crowning achievement however comes with “The Ocean” which complements the tone of “The Bringer” and bookends the album nicely.

It is hard to get these songs out of my head after listening to Ringing for the Begin Again, even the songs in Japanese stick in my brain for hours. Elfin Saddle combine incredibly infectious songwriting with a real passion that sets them apart from other quirky indie acts. Being based in Canada and with the huge list of instruments used on the album (guitar, ukulele, saw, drums, accordion, banjo, xylophone, tuba, violin, etc.) they could easily mistaken as a Broken Social Scene “everything including the kitchen sink” kind of band but they have a simplicity and humanity to them that the likes of Broken Social Scene lack.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 17 May 2009 14:01  


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