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Elfin Saddle - Ringing for the Begin Again

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Artist: Elfin Saddle

Album: Ringing for the Begin Again

Label: Constellation

Review date: Jun. 25, 2009

There is nothing terribly wrong with Elfin Saddle’s second album Ringing For The Begin Again. Elfin Saddle themselves are neither ghastly nor uncreative, neither unpleasant nor instantly forgettable. Damning them with faint praise, however, necessitates the “but” that pulls the rug out from under: the pregnant build up of an “I love you…” So, yes, Elfin Saddle are all of these things, but they lack “striving,” a quality that the music or the principle songwriters Jordan McKenzie and Emi Honda are trying to reach beyond themselves. Without this quality, Ringing is just there. Not offensive, certainly not mediocre, but falling into a grey area, a cluster of musicians that appear from the outside to be conceptually and motivationally bereft, as if the act of making albums was perfunctory.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, McKenzie and Honda may actually have a background concept that drives their desire to make music. Ringing never realizes this concept, if indeed there is one. Enjoyable neo-folk, sure, but it’s ephemeral. Not in the way a club hit or a summer jam is, eventually becoming fodder for Bar Mitzvah receptions, but ephemeral in that it’s nice while it’s playing. But when it isn’t, one isn’t likely to pine for the album. That’s the tragedy of the ephemeral, doomed to a frustrating limbo, neither angering nor gratifying. Maybe a sorbet at best.

A piece of art needs to answer the question, “Why does this exist?” Maybe to impart an idea, maybe to make the world more beautiful or weirder or to politically inflame the viewer or anything. Maybe as a response to another artwork. The most barren answer, though, and one that a lot of artists might give in moments of dazing honesty is “Because I’m an artist.” A self-imposed identity that necessitates creation. A job description. Elfin Saddle may or may not fall into the latter category, but the music makes it seem as if they do. Lacking drive, lacking the quality of striving, that makes them competent technocratic musicians; all the pieces are there in the right place, but that doesn’t mean it’s exciting or inspiring. Efficient, sure, even friendly, but devoid of a deeper reason for being.

By Andrew Beckerman

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