Elfin Saddle deepens its compositional and conceptual agenda on Devastates, the band's third full-length album and its most urgent, ornate and impassioned work to date. The Montreal group, led by multi-instrumentalists Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie (who also share vocal duties), has always shown a profound engagement with issues of environmental sustainability and the emotional impact of economic/political ideologies that continually foreclose on the possibility of genuine, progressive renewal and redirection. The band's music-making – and the parallel art practice on display in Honda and McKenzie's installation and video work – investigates the tensions between nature and technology on multiple levels. With Devastates, this is explicit in the lyrical narrative of the album as a whole and implicit in the band's use of found and re-purposed objects to create its soundworld. The new album weds an operetta-style song cycle to an organic, junkshop aesthetic to great effect, forging a unique hybrid folk music that weaves Honda's trilling vocals (often singing in Japanese) and McKenzie's woodsy, unaffected baritone with threads of clattering steam-engine percussion, ukulele, accordion, glockenspiel and pump organ. The addition of Kristina Koropecki's cello alongside long-standing third member Nathan Gage (Shapes & Sizes) on upright bass allows for a doubly melodic/rhythmic low-end. Recorded in a small abandoned chapel in rural Quebec, Devastates is intimate and humbly epic, anchored by a DIY aesthetic and fuelled by the desire to say something both critical and hopeful about our common earthly trajectory. This is profoundly un-escapist and engaged folk music that avoids the obvious trappings of folk traditions, grounding the listener in a sonic and narrative terrain that stakes out a highly original and distinctive definition of protest song. Devastates is framed by the beautiful and subtly disturbing artwork of McKenzie, with its front cover conflagration of mutant birds serving as the perfect visual analogue for the album's themes. The 180gLP format is lavishly packaged with a full colour liner notes insert and a screenprinted art poster, both printed on archival paper.
1 The Changing Wind 2 Kiboho 3 Boats 4 The Power & The Wake 5 Chaos Hands 6 Invocation 7 In A Blanket Of Leaves 8 The Wind Come Carry
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