Kayla Cohen is Itasca is downtempo folk music. Informed by her past life as a drone and noise merchant, the tunes on Open to Chance have a slow and constant bleed, making for a delightfully homogenous listen in the vein of Sibylle Baier's Colour Green. Most importantly, this record affirms Cohen's place as one of modern music's most understated guitarists, her picking patterns so good they're subliminal.
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This is the second album proper from New York bred singer/guitarist Kayla Cohen under this unassuming moniker. She has a super smooth, super atmospheric style of guitar picking that complements her soft and frail voice superbly.
The opening one/two of ‘Buddy’ and ‘Henfight’ set the scene for a richly textured album that could be set alongside such past heroes as Laura Veirs and Gillian Welch. There’s a '70s folk style feel here - her voice occasionally reminds me of that of Sandy Denny and at other times Hope Sandoval and while ‘Buddy’ is Laurel Canyon-style folk pop. ‘Henfight’ though is the track that has the shiver of the fur. This sounds like the icy cold windswept songs of Laura Veirs on her ‘Carbon Glacier’ LP, all tumbling guitars and crestfallen vocals. Elsewhere there is a more AOR sound to the songs as steel guitars are added to ‘GB’’s perky countrified rhythm, her voice still swoops in all the right places but I’m wondering how the song would sound with the stripped back production of a track like ‘Layman’s Banquet’, here is where Cohen excels. It has something of the raw and bleak songs Suzanne Vega sometimes inserts onto her albums.
In fact Vega is not a bad reference point for much of this record. I feel that the more ‘busy’ tracks detract from the core values of Cohen which are simple voice and guitar, when the album is allowed to breathe it’s exceptional wintery bedsit music, quite lovely in places. Might be hard to get through winter without this one.
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