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Archive for the ‘Elfin Saddle’ Category

seamSOUNDTRACKELFIN SADDLE-Devastates [CST087] (2012).

elfinElfin Saddle continues their streak of oddly juxtaposed music that works very well.   The band specializes in a kind of Middle Eastern folk music (there’s a lot of Jewish-style singing), but with Emi Honda singing Japanese-style vocals it really alters the overall sound.  They also use a lot of raw sounding “instruments” many of which are found or quite simply, junk.  Check out the instrumentation list: Jordan McKenzie: voice, guitar, half-accordion, drums, varied percussion, membrane pipes, organs, piano, pvc processing, tapes, phonographs, speakers, etc.  Emi Honda: voice, ukulele, drums, half-accordion, musical saw, extra percussion.  It’s that extra percussion and etc. that you hear a lot, rattling around in the background of these songs.

They play complex rhythms (with lots of low end drumming) underneath ethereal noises (music boxes and the like).  And all the while, Honda and McKenzie trade off their unusual vocals.  It’s mesmerizing.  When the band really starts rocking, like in “The Changing Wind” you hear how well it all works together, and how well the two play off each other.  The slower pieces, like “Boats” are very cinematic, probably because everything sounds so real–you can see the items that are making these odd sounds.

The music is definitely not pop, but with just a listen or two, you can really appreciate what they’re doing.  If you like your folk a little noisy or your rock a little experimental, this is a great record to check out.

[READ: January 13, 2013] The Seamstress and the Wind

Things that I have said about every book of Aira’s that I have read: they are all short, he writes a lot of books (according to Wikipedia he has written at least 45 books since this one came out about twenty years ago), and they are all nonlinear.

And so it is with this 130 page book.

As the book opens, a young boy named César Aira is playing with his friend in the back of their neighbor Chiquito’s truck.  They are playing a game of ghosts when suddenly, César finds himself walking in a trance back to his house.  Turns out his friend Omar couldn’t find him for hours (and when César snaps out of it, indeed hours have passed).  And yet, despite this story, it turns out that really Omar is missing (what? who knows?).  Omar is the son of the local seamstress, Delia Siffoni.  She is sewing a wedding dress for the art teacher, Silvia, who is (scandalously) pregnant.  When she hears that her son is missing, she freaks out and calls out a search party.

She concludes that Omar was hiding in Chiquito’s truck when he left for Patagonia.  So she takes a taxi to chase after Chiquito.  Since the dress is due to be finished right away, she takes it and her supplies with her in hopes of finishing it on the road.  When Ramón, Delia’s husband realizes what she has done, he chases after her.  And when Silvia realizes that her dress is driving away in a taxi she follows Ramón.  And so it becomes a road novel in which none of the characters are together.

By the end of the story there has been a terrible accident with a taxi crashing into a truck.  There has been a poker game where one of the two women has been lost in a bet (unbeknownst to her) and we have met The Wind (Sir Ventarrón) who helps the seamstress with her problems.  Indeed, Sir Ventarrón becomes an integral part of the story, including a flashback when Sir Ventarrón assisted a snowman in his quest for eternal life (yes). (more…)

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[WATCHED: 2011 and November 24, 2012] Wurld [CST069] (2010).

Wurld is an art installation.  It was created by Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie, the co-founders of Elfin Saddle.   As the Constellation Records website explains it:

Wurld is a year-long installation piece constructed, tended and developed in their Montreal apartment, using stop-motion video to document the evolution of the sculptural elements of the work as well as to enact various animated sequences as part of a larger narrative arc for the piece. The resulting 23 minute film Wurld premiered at the Vienna Film Festival in 2009.

The film is indeed, a stop motion film of the daily growth of the plant life in the garden.  It’s got several awesome sequences where you can watch the vines spin around looking for something to grab onto.  But beyond that, they have also created an entire world in this little world.  Things move along train tracks, smoke (cotton) comes out of chimneys, objects exit caves and construct sculptures of themselves.  There’s even an occasional live snail (how did they get it to go where they wanted?  It’s very cool.

Accompanying the video is a soundtrack by Elfin Saddle.  Elfin Saddle plays a kind of world music–accordion, bells, bowed saws and Japanese-style melodies from Honda.  Although in the case of the soundtrack, there are no vocals, and the music is much more soundtracky–not really any style, just a kind of ambient soundscape.  Some of the music is very dark, which comes across especially with some of the found instrumentation (the percussion sounds more like found metal than cymbals or bells).  And some of the other percussive sounds seem to be more like blocks of found wood.  It’s interesting that the music by itself is kind of dark since the video is not dark at all, it is filled with wonder and delight.  Until the end bit which is very mechanized and seems to show a definite downturn in the society of their world.

The DVD comes with a whole bunch of extras: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ELFIN SADDLE-Ringing for the Begin Again [CST059] (2009).

This is a fascinating disc from our friends at Constellation Records. It defies ready classification and offers elements of folk music, eastern instrumentation, klezmer and Asian influences.

The most obvious Asian influences come from Emi Honda who sings in Japanese.  In a most misunderstanding, on “The Procession,” which sounds Middle Eastern, I actually thought she was singing in Israeli or something until I realized it was Japanese.

Jordan McKenzie, the other half of the band, sings in English and has a variety of vocal styles. He also plays accordion banjo and xylophone, which complements Emi’s own accordion and singing saw (!).  There is also a feeling of random percussion (or as the Constellation website puts it: junk percussion).

The opening track, “The Bringer” begins quietly, building in a gentle staccato with both members singing until it reaches its full height of intensity.  “Running Sheep” sung in Japanese, actually feels like a running song, while “Hammer Song” is almost, almost, a straightforward folk song (in which Jordan sounds Scottish) except for perhaps the tuba accompaniment.  Yet for all of these disparate elements, the disc holds together amazingly well.  These are not nine individual track  glued together, they all work together to create a very solid composition.

It should also come as no surprise that Jordan and Emi are visual artists.  The cover depicts a sculpture of theirs (and the liner notes are beautifully illustrated).  Lyrics are included and the Japanese is translated for us.

The disc doesn’t feature the dramatic highs and lows of some other Constellation releases, but as a solid, slightly avant garde folk release, it’s quite terrific.

[READ: February 14, 2010] The Broken Teaglass

[UPDATE: Sarah just reviwed the book here.  We don’t often read the same books, so this was fun.]

Sarah’s friend Denise said I would really like this book.  Upon hearing that this book was right up my alley I had to investigate immediately (I always wonder what people think I would like).  And she was totally correct.

So what makes this book perfect for me?  Well, it is set in a dictionary.  Actually, it is set in the editorial department of the offices of the Samuelson Dictionary, one of the premiere dictionaries in the world.  The protagonist is Billy, a recent college graduate (in philosophy) whose first job comes at Samuelson.  The offices are located in the small town of Claxton, Mass.  Billy moves away from home (although it is still driving distance) to a small apartment in this very small town.

I have no idea if the descriptions of working in a dictionary office are in any way accurate, but it certainly is enticing.  Essentially, everyone works in silence all day.  They are assigned several magazines to read to see if there are any new words that are coming into common usage which might wind up in future editions of the dictionary.  Eventually they are assigned words to define as well (for future supplements to the dictionary).

They are also responsible for correspondence with dictionary users.  People write (or call) with questions about word usage, misusage and even suggestions for additions to the dictionary.  How fascinating is that? (Oh and these correspondences were absolutely hilarious!). (more…)

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