Elfin Saddle: Ringing For The Begin Again

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Elfin Saddle 

Written By:

Brad Kelly

19th May 2009
At 00:29 GMT

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There are many, many aspects that individualise Elfin Saddle as a band and they're not just rooted within their music.

For one; their name is wildly unique and strangely represents their odd, fantasy-like folk musings rather well. Secondly; there are only two members, one of which is Canadian song-writer Jordan McKenzie and the other is Emi Honda, a Japanese art student who moved to Canada and eventually met McKenzie in Vancouver.

Born from their odd love of art, music and everything strange, we are now given this; their second record as a pair and a true example of skewed magnificence. 

Switching between two dynamics on a record (lighter/darker or quieter/louder etc.) usually spreads the focus a little and adds depth overall but when you actually have two completely separate singers taking turns, track by track, to deliver their own specific type of atmospherics is an entirely different kettle of awesome. Honda sings in a gentle, whispering-but-confident tone, never once faltering and strictly singing in Japanese only (excluding her backing vocals on some songs). Contradictory to that is McKenzie's unsettled, almost schizophrenic vocal rhythm and delivery that often seems direction-less but never becoming distasteful. Together, they somehow fuse their individual ideals and styles into one fantastically crafted beast of a record.

The Bringer is a slow burner that twinkles, moans and tip-toes for the better part of three minutes and then quietly explodes into an eery stream of harmonic violins, xylophone's and trash-can like percussions. It sounds both beautiful and desperate and has the ability to send shivers down the spine if played in the right atmosphere. 

The record is almost indefinable as a whole but under the microscope, you can begin to see its influences. There's obvious hints of Eastern dynamics within the musicianship but they're more baroque and unhinged when entwined with the Western strings and percussion. Folk laces its exterior (bells, banjo's, acoustic guitars, violins and other less mainstream instruments) and hidden shyly in the corners are tinges of post-rock (the builds, breaks and transitions). Then of course there's that ever present sense of alternative melody that we haven't yet mentioned. There's so many successful ideas woven carefully into the record's fabric that even if a certain song doesn't impress as much as its predecessor, it's still respectable and thoroughly listenable.

Hammer Song is the record's anthem and toys with catchy theatrics and repeated lyricism. "I am a hammer, i'll smash it in, smash it in, smash it in" repeats McKenzie as the strummed acoustic backing guitar follows him confidently. "I have a power inside my skin, inside my skin, inside my skin" he preaches again and again alongside the fantastically built rhythm. Structurally the song seems simplistic and is lighter than a lot of the other tracks on the record - from McKenzie anyway - but it works so well and knows just what to do as well as when to do it, that it can safely be considered a highlight throughout this already gleaming CD.

One of the main focal points on the record is mid-track The Living Light which can only be described as a psychedelic-folk-mind-fuck for the ages. Building and building with no need to worry about time signatures or rhythm, the song is as discordant as it is melodic and uses both members opposed vocals to add to the audible contradiction that shouldn't make sense - but does in every single aspect you can think of. 

Whilst the albums positives completely outweigh it’s negatives, it has to be said that the record does tend to focus a little too much on trying out a few random tangents instead of keeping to a more narrow focus. It doesn’t detract whatsoever but it does become considerably more noticeable on repeated listens.

Ringing For The Begin Again shouldn't make sense (even it's title is a nightmare to read and understand) and that's exactly how the duo like it. It's an acquired taste in many aspects and there's so much to take in and witness, to dissect and appreciate, that many won't find the time to truly grasp and respect its beauty and originality. Both brutal and beautiful, Ringing For The Begin Again is like nothing you have witnessed before.

Rating:  8 / 10

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