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Constellation Double : Eric Chenaux, Elfin Saddle

 

Montreal’s Constellation Records may be more nowadays than just an outlet for music from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and their various spin-off groups, but the quality control standards are still exceptionally high; last year the label released two of the most astounding albums in recent memory, from Sandro Perri and Matana Roberts, and this month sees two more additions to their impressive catalogue. Eric Chenaux is one of Canada’s most respected experimental musicians, and his fourth LP for the label Guitar And Voice – as its title suggests – features only the artist and his instrument; alternating between longer, vocal songs and shorter bursts of bowed guitar noise, Chenaux channels his usual reference points (jazz, blues, free-improv, folk, baroque pop and psychedelia) into a collection of blissful, shimmering drones and sweetly skewed ballads. In the hands of a lesser player, such restricted resources could prove limiting, but Chenaux is a guitarist on a par with masters like Marc Ribot or the late Derek Bailey, and with a high, cracked croon not unlike that of Arthur Russell songs (the Sandro Perri- produced “Put In Music”) and instrumentals (“Sliabh Aughty”, which sounds like Hendrix tackling African desert blues) alike are handled with just the right balance of subtlety and showmanship. Devastates, the third long player from Elfin Saddle, explores much of the same territory, but with considerably more bombastic results. Using a unique array of acoustic instruments – tuba, cello, ukulele, accordion, double bass etc – and found sounds salvaged from the same junkyards that used to service core duo Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie’s multi-media art installations, the pair (plus auxiliary members Kristina Koropecki and Shapes & Sizes’ Nathan Gage) have sculpted an intense, passionate song cycle loosely themed around the environment and the way the human race is failing in its responsibilities to the planet. With Honda’s operatic trill and McKenzie’s woody baritone coming together atop wheezing pump-organ, chiming glockenspiels and clattering percussion, the album salutes traditional English folk, neo-classical composition and the minimal sounds of the Far East, and at its dramatic, violent best (“The Changing Wind”, “The Wind Come Carry”) it is as stark and as beautiful as the landscapes that inspired it.

Devastates by Elfin Saddle and Guitar And Voice by Eric Chenaux are both out March 26 on Constellation, and can be previewed in full at the label’s website

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix. I'm a thirtysomething dad who has written in the past for The Quietus, Resident Advisor and Onethirtybpm. Music has been a huge part of my life for over twenty years, and I still passionately love everything from classic rock and indie pop to hip hop and techno, from Afrobeat and jazz to Krautrock and metal, so I decided to try and spread the word about some of the stuff I hear and like. Hopefully you'll like some of it too, and if you do please bookmark the site (I try to post something most days, even if having a baby girl to look after sometimes makes that impossible) and follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts, and the occasional random brain-fart. Lastly, please share links wherever you can: word of mouth is everything!

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