Elfin Saddle
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Elfin Saddle

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | INDIE

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | INDIE
Band Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Fairytale drone-folk casts a charm (7 / 10)"

Fairytale drone-folk casts a charm
(7 / 10)

As mystical as the magic mushroom they named themselves after, this Montreal duo create an unsettling hybrid of western archival folk and Japanese music that sounds like a Brothers Grimm fairytale set in a forest after dark. The accordion provides a base for dense layers of melodies and the eerie rattle of junkyard percussion. On opener ‘The Bringer’ the Appalachian drone swells up to a crescendo with the haunting vocals of Emi Honda, before she enchants us with the lullaby-like ‘Running Sheep’. The music box chimes of ‘Muskeg Parade’ are reminiscent of San Franciscan orchestral spooks Iron And The Albatross, while ‘The Ocean’ has the haunting resonance of music that only exists in dreams.
(Tessa Harris) - NME

"Elfin Saddle -Ringing For The Begin Again (4 / 5)"

Elfin Saddle - Ringing For The Begin Again
(4 / 5)

Elfin Saddle are a voyeuristic listen. Jordan McKenzie and Emi Honda, partners in art and life, present an intimate portrait of wordless communication and musical coupling, each echoing the other's primal incantations. Songs that sound like they have been recorded in the bedroom mingle different musical cultures with whatever instrument first comes to hand, sung at once in English and Japanese, an East-West dichotomy that can't help but sound exotic. With whirling accordions, military drums and third wheel Nathan Gage on contrabass and tuba, their imagination and dexterity build thick, intense melodies, both familiar and strange. The yearning drama of Running Sheep is the highlight of the Japanese-led half, haiku light and dark imagery that feeds with urgent recitation and broken cymbals. Accompanied by beautiful homemade artwork that is worth the entrance fee alone, Elfin Saddle present an all-encompassing, gripping work.

Written by Jamie Scott - The Skinny

"Elfin Saddle -Ringing For The Begin Again (8 / 10)"

Elfin Saddle - Ringing For The Begin Again
(8 / 10)

There are many, many aspects that individualise Elfin Saddle as a band and they're not just rooted within their music.

For one; their name is wildly unique and strangely represents their odd, fantasy-like folk musings rather well. Secondly; there are only two members, one of which is Canadian song-writer Jordan McKenzie and the other is Emi Honda, a Japanese art student who moved to Canada and eventually met McKenzie in Vancouver.

Born from their odd love of art, music and everything strange, we are now given this; their second record as a pair and a true example of skewed magnificence.

Switching between two dynamics on a record (lighter/darker or quieter/louder etc.) usually spreads the focus a little and adds depth overall but when you actually have two completely separate singers taking turns, track by track, to deliver their own specific type of atmospherics is an entirely different kettle of awesome. Honda sings in a gentle, whispering-but-confident tone, never once faltering and strictly singing in Japanese only (excluding her backing vocals on some songs). Contradictory to that is McKenzie's unsettled, almost schizophrenic vocal rhythm and delivery that often seems direction-less but never becoming distasteful. Together, they somehow fuse their individual ideals and styles into one fantastically crafted beast of a record.

The Bringer is a slow burner that twinkles, moans and tip-toes for the better part of three minutes and then quietly explodes into an eery stream of harmonic violins, xylophone's and trash-can like percussions. It sounds both beautiful and desperate and has the ability to send shivers down the spine if played in the right atmosphere.

The record is almost indefinable as a whole but under the microscope, you can begin to see its influences. There's obvious hints of Eastern dynamics within the musicianship but they're more baroque and unhinged when entwined with the Western strings and percussion. Folk laces its exterior (bells, banjo's, acoustic guitars, violins and other less mainstream instruments) and hidden shyly in the corners are tinges of post-rock (the builds, breaks and transitions). Then of course there's that ever present sense of alternative melody that we haven't yet mentioned. There's so many successful ideas woven carefully into the record's fabric that even if a certain song doesn't impress as much as its predecessor, it's still respectable and thoroughly listenable.

Hammer Song is the record's anthem and toys with catchy theatrics and repeated lyricism. "I am a hammer, i'll smash it in, smash it in, smash it in" repeats McKenzie as the strummed acoustic backing guitar follows him confidently. "I have a power inside my skin, inside my skin, inside my skin" he preaches again and again alongside the fantastically built rhythm. Structurally the song seems simplistic and is lighter than a lot of the other tracks on the record - from McKenzie anyway - but it works so well and knows just what to do as well as when to do it, that it can safely be considered a highlight throughout this already gleaming CD.

One of the main focal points on the record is mid-track The Living Light which can only be described as a psychedelic-folk-mind-fuck for the ages. Building and building with no need to worry about time signatures or rhythm, the song is as discordant as it is melodic and uses both members opposed vocals to add to the audible contradiction that shouldn't make sense - but does in every single aspect you can think of.

Whilst the albums positives completely outweigh it’s negatives, it has to be said that the record does tend to focus a little too much on trying out a few random tangents instead of keeping to a more narrow focus. It doesn’t detract whatsoever but it does become considerably more noticeable on repeated listens.

Ringing For The Begin Again shouldn't make sense (even it's title is a nightmare to read and understand) and that's exactly how the duo like it. It's an acquired taste in many aspects and there's so much to take in and witness, to dissect and appreciate, that many won't find the time to truly grasp and respect its beauty and originality. Both brutal and beautiful, Ringing For The Begin Again is like nothing you have witnessed before.

Written by Brad Kelly - Strange Glue

"Album of the Week (9.5 / 10)"

(9.5 / 10)
Wurld (Constellation)

This impressive little package from the Montreal-based music-and-art duo of Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie succeeds on all fronts. Within the deluxe handcrafted package stocked with lovely printed goodies is a disc brimming with audio tracks, concert footage, bonus art clips and the main component—Wurld, an almost half-hour film shot entirely in a patch of the pair’s backyard. Time-lapsed vegetation and stop-motion street junk play out a narrative arc of green to grim, an Earth-first argument that’s never overstated, any more than the creaking, poignant para-folk accompanying it. (Rupert Bottenberg)
- Montreal Mirror

"Elfin Saddle - Wurld (10 / 10)"

(10 / 10)

Elfin Saddle’s second record for Montreal based label Constellation is a curious thing, comprising a limited edition run of a musical recording and an accompanying short film. In line with the label’s continuing aesthetic towards lovingly rendered packages, the boxed set is a beautiful thing- screenprinted artwork and postcards complementing the media.

It is perhaps fair to judge the film and music both individually and collectively, as the soundtrack music to the film more than stands up on it’s own. Included in the disc are two bonus recordings, another 14 minutes of wonderfully recorded music, and on the dvd, a whole plethora of noteworthy supplements.

Having opened at the Vienna International Film Festival, Wurld represents Elfin Saddle’s devotion to performance art and installation pieces. Both Jordan McKenzie and Emi Honda, the artists behind the project, are devout inventors, instrumentalists with an eye to DIY and the ad-hoc.

Wurld, the film, can be loosely surmised as a narrative retelling of a society’s evolution and fall- filmed in stop-motion, rendered in a quaint archaic style that captivates your inner child’s imagination. Opening with television static, this gives way to muddy voids, from which horizons form, green shoots and the beginnings of what you might call civilisation. What is interesting about the composition here is how technological development is animated much in a similar fashion to the natural evolution. As plants stutter and arc toward the sky, so too do the beginnings of infrastructure- timid building blocks dancing across the screen, positioning themselves into a semblance of civil order.

Just as form materialises, so too does it disperse. The film is broken into numerous sections, each transitioned with a knowing fade to black. These epochs allow for a passing of time, a skipping of centuries, as the diorama’s structures take on greater development. This is a film about nature and culture, how both are subject to evolutionary spurts and moments of waning, recession- the inexorable linking of these two oppositional modes. As pre-industrial mining and monarchic theocracies give way to highly technological societies, does Wurld imagine these existences any differently? One development gets layered over another and evolution’s rebuilding, its process of continual renewal, is revealed as one of fairly arbitrary determinism, a causality without thought or pre-consideration, only impetus for change.

Elfin Saddle similarly have constructed a soundtrack that befits this narrative exposition, a layered sound recording that is foreboding and enchanting in equal measure. Sourced from an array of acoustic instruments, found sound and assembled kit, the soundtrack to this short film is a lovely piece of music, the kind of avant-garde instrumental folk that is as progressive as it is timeless. The two extra recordings on the LP are similarly interesting pieces of music, crafted from choral chanting, evocative chord progressions and intricate homemade percussion. Their music is enveloping and hugely beautiful, but so unconcerned with notions of grandeur- even when reciting such a grand meta-narrative as a history of society’s evolution.

Accompanying the short film on Wurld’s DVD is a full concert recording as well as a selection of out-takes from the edit. Lovingly put together and fully realised as a conceptual work, Wurld is a small, assured statement of artistry and example by one of Constellations most intriguing new bands.

Written by Amir Adhamy - The 405

"Natural musicians: Inspiration is in the trees for Elfin Saddle"

When Elfin Saddle sat down to record its second album, the band wanted to translate the vibrancy of its live show into a recording. Elfin Saddle, of course, isn’t the first band to face this struggle, but for the Montréal-based trio, there was something even more imperative to the quest.

When you listen to Ringing for the Begin Again, its blend of tinkles and bleats, rhymes and voices, you can hear how Emi Honda, Jordan McKenzie and Nathan Gage are rekindling your sense of the magical. They conjure images of mossy trees, forest fairies and wart-faced trolls.

“We’ve always gotten a lot of inspiration from the natural world, especially when we were living in BC,” McKenzie says. “We were always active outdoors, and being in Montréal, it’s a lot harder and more of a struggle. And we were a bit frustrated that it can be a really difficult city to leave to get that—to have a connection with nature. I think that just bottled up. This album was a release for that tension.”

Music isn’t the only release. A few years ago, when McKenzie and Honda were living in Victoria, they were already making a name for themselves with their intricate sculptures and installations made from plants and found objects—a taste of which you can find on their album covers. And moving to Montréal meant finding new places to collect.

“It’s definitely a different source of material. We’ve always just scavenged from what’s around us,” he says. “When we were out West, we were collecting stuff from the foothills or beachcombing ... now it’s just junk on the streets or whatever we can find. There’s so much of it. It’s actually a great city for scavenging because often when people don’t want something, they’ll set it out on the street. So in the summer, there’s a lot of collecting to be done.”

No, music isn’t the only release, but it does stem from the same place. Like the mushroom the band is named after, they take what is discarded to make room for new blossoms.

“The approach that we take is really similar. We both just kind of try to make do with what we have, and that’s how our band works, too,” McKenzie says. “We’ve just collected instruments over the years—often just stuff that people have given to us or whatever; stuff that just comes to us, and it’s just what we have around and we play with it and we make the best thing that we can and that’s how it is with our artwork, too. We collect things that are there and available and we just try to turn it into something of value, I guess, something beautiful.”

Written by Carolyn Nikodym - Vue Weekly

"The Plot Thickens"

“We’ve always had certain aspects of the utopian in our work,” says musician Jordan McKenzie, with Emi Honda the core of Montreal’s Elfin Saddle. He’s referring to the intensely organic—as in, full of live, green flora—nature of their art installations, primarily Honda’s domain. But the utopianism communicated by these miniature, mashed-up realms of plant life and found objects is echoed in their music, a sort of patchwork meta-folk resonant with both remote mysticism and plainspoken, handcrafted honesty.
The pair’s pocket-sized paradise, however, seems besieged these days, something one can hear in the hints of urgency and foreboding across their recent Constellation album, Ringing for the Begin Again. “A few years back, I was more optimistic,” says Honda, “wanting to give happier messages, that as a human you’re part of nature, so coexist. But now, looking at the way we are, it seems like, really, it’s not what we’re trying to do. So I think our message became scarier.”
“I think we’ve become more impassioned about making a point,” adds McKenzie, and it’s a point that has become more precise since the duo relocated to Montreal from Victoria, B.C., four years ago, dropping the moniker Sound Stories in favour of Elfin Saddle.
“The big difference is, we were doing visual arts back then too,” says Honda, “but we didn’t connect them to music. When we came to Montreal, our themes became clearer—the music’s themes stepped into the visual art’s themes, let’s say. Now we’re more comfortable with those aspects together.”
Together, the art and music invoke an active social and environmental engagement, though not to the extent of eco-hectoring. Elfin Saddle’s most thorough fusion of sight and sound is Wurld, a 25-minute time-lapse film they’re premiering at the MAC’s Nocturnes night this Friday, alongside a new installation and a live performance to accompany footage thereof.
“The original idea,” says Honda, “was more like, make this sculpture installation and then help the plants grow over it so they can decay and go back to the ground together.” The final film, however, is the opposite of that. To the strains of a stirring Elfin Saddle score, it’s a gorgeous, haunting look at the transition of an idyllic wilderness gradually supplanted by civilization. The whole thing, concocted out of living plants and repurposed junk (“scavenging, yeah, it’s kind of an art form we’ve perfected over the years,” notes McKenzie), was created over many months in one tiny plot of dirt.
“It was a reclamation,” says McKenzie. “The area that we shot it in, the backyard of the apartment we were renting, was covered in garbage when we found it. We had to clear it out and revitalize the soil.”
Honda doubts they could have summoned the same intentions back out in verdant Victoria. “Montreal’s contaminated soil and shady backyard corners are more meaningful, in a way. We wanted to show people that it’s possible.” In scoring a film, they’ve also shown themselves what’s possible for their music.
“It forced us to have to fit into this mould that already existed,” says McKenzie, to which Honda adds, “Elfin Saddle’s set was more like song, song, song before, but the idea of the soundtrack, always moving into another scene, affected our live set, making it more connected.”

- Montreal Mirror

"Elfin Saddle - Wurld"

When exploring the world of Elfin Saddle, it is important to acknowledge that their music and their films are so entwined that it may be difficult to evaluate one without the other. However, this is no ordinary band of artisans and film makers.

Elfin Saddle’s Wurld is a complex weave of art and nature, musical chemistry and historical themes. The experimental video, which takes place in a small garden plot, is a patient and deep discourse about the nature of our existence, from the earth we rise and proceed through different evolutionary states.

The use of subtle but sinister imagery develops an easily followed narrative, constructed also by a reflexive musical backdrop. At first the symbols are of paganism, monarchy and religious power, a golden hind is lit by a fired crucible beneath which sits a throne. These are then replaced with symbols of industry and mass production, iron replacing wood and black smoke billowing from unknown sources. Eventually we see a synthetic take over, with a cacophony of lights overlooking a wasteland of disused metals. Dark devices are continually used, such as birth, predation, indoctrination, destruction, war and death, playing to many of our primal instincts. Shadows in particular are employed, as well as acts of consumption and elements being born from the earth, making you think of both fertility and decay. The old is consumed by the new, the new devours to reproduce and this in turn devours that which came before.

This is a delightful creation with a story arc that interprets our society’s development, through a stop animation of lost things and strange life. The inhabitants of this universe are cogs, spindles and tufts of hair, a myriad of mislaid items. At one point this place is even ruled by an infectious burst of mud. The only truly living things present are the plants in which this world is built and they are constant witnesses to the altering environment and are eventually silenced. The garden signifies how changes to our society can happen in the suddenness of a mushroom withering. Since Elfin Saddle is a type of mushroom, this is an obvious message concerning the band’s understanding of their place in hyperreal society.

Wurld illustrates an evolution of associative manufactured materials and instinctual sounds. The music interprets an industrialisation, giving thoughts about our increasingly mechanical and globalised planet a clear and not necessarily friendly voice. It is both a diatribe on us as a species and our future as a dystopian entity. Seemingly deeply influenced by Knut Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil, this text takes that message into a new age.

I was transfixed when examining Wurld, but thought that I wouldn’t be able to ‘just listen’. Fearing that I would need Elfin Saddle’s painstaking aesthetic to create the same contemplative joy, I however realised that sometimes it is lovely to be wrong.

When listening to this album, I was reminded of Studio Ghibli’s musical landscaping. My head filled with impossible planes, floating worlds and glowing creatures. Yet through the music you can hear a menace, a message that the Wurld becomes (spoiler alert) an all consuming monster which produces nothing but void. The album is both a statement about human production and social inflation, as well as being Elfin Saddle’s latest mythical construction.

Written by Ruth Carlisle - Trebuchet Magazine

"Elfin Saddle -Ringing For The Begin Again"

"She was driven at first, by her aching lungs, and increasing thirst."

As the low rumbles of orchestral tuning enter the atmosphere, Jordan McKenzie mumbles the introduction of a somber story worthy of an Upton Sinclair novel. As this hymn to the destitute transcends to a pensive and haunting tune it begins to encompass the emotive abstracts of an internal struggle. Though each song on the album contains similar properties, many of them are more subjective, as they are sung in Japanese. "Sakura," "Running Sheep," and others would be entirely interperative if not for the translations found in the liner notes. Upon reading through the poetic writings it is easily determined that this is a rare instance where the integrity of the lyrics match that of the music, and is done so at a level that reaches for absolute perfection. "The Bringer" introduces this notion, "Hammer Song" shows the idealistic side of it, and "The Ocean" offers closure.

"I will pull out all the nails, I will make the structure weak."

This lyric speaks not only to the narrative of the song, but the potential of the band's might. While Time magazine heralds the culture ushered in by former celebrities through gross exploitation, Elfin Saddle does so by recounting musical heritage, archaic instrumentation, and folk songwriting. Through their tense and mournful timepieces, a delicate montage is born. Ringing for the Begin Again ascends beyond the limits of the prefabricated record and latches onto a variety of cultures and periods to create a landscape of impressionistic conceptualism. Ethereal chants, brooding intensity, and figurative lyrics enchant the ears while enlightening the mind. In the end, the downtrodden words of Emi Honda leave the listener with the question that summarizes the destitution:

"Where did the waves go? Where did the ocean go? Where did the tides go? Where did you all go?"

Written by Andy Special - Absolute Punk

"Music Feature - Elfin Saddle"

They may have grown up half a world apart, but if you take one listen to the bizarre, haunting music created by the duo of Emi Honda and Jordan Mckenzie, it’s hard not to think it was meant to be.

Consider their partnership a story of musical fate. Honda moved from her native southern Japan to Vancouver Island, where she focused on the art that would eventually connect her with Vancouver artist and musician Mckenzie. It wasn’t all that long before their similar artistic influences and interests lent themselves to mak­ing music together as well, with results that were as unexpected as they are fascinating.

After starting out busking in Victoria, they attempted several projects, then moved to Montreal, where they fully developed their sound, a kind of avant-??folk influenced by everything from outsider art to field recordings and nursery rhymes. Named after their favourite wild mushroom, Elfin Saddle’s sound is as organic as they come, and on their debut, Gigantic Mother/Wounded Child, they create an imaginary world full of spirits while accommodating traditional Japanese folk melodies and dark, strange moments worthy of Tom Waits. Still relatively new to the scene, Elfin Saddle’s music is as hard to pin down as it is weird and beautiful.

Written by Evan Davies
- NOW Magazine

"Elfin Saddle -Ringing For The Begin Again"

On their second album, Jordan McKenzie and Emi Honda have created a mesmerising experience somewhere between revolution and fairytale. It is difficult to place it accurately in any standard musical taxonomy but with elements of folk, world music and a fierce rock and roll spirit, Elfin Saddle have created some of the most stirring songs to enter my ears recently. From my glib description, they sound on paper to be yet another freak folk act with their own novelty but they are much more than that.

Ringing for the Begin Again begins like any other Constellation album, delicate and mournful strings on “The Bringer” by the label’s resident violinist Jessica Moss and gently hammered xylophone combine to make a beautiful and moving introduction to the album. McKenzie’s vocals sound like a lived-in version of Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, lilting in the rhythm of Moss’s bowing. His lyrics on this piece and elsewhere on Ringing for the Begin Again have a poetic quality that fits like a glove with the dreamy music. “The Living Light” is easily one of the best songs of the year; the driving rhythm combined with McKenzie’s almost religious singing makes a huge impression with each play through the album.

An entire album like this would be epic but Elfin Saddle have other, equally wonderful things to offer. Honda is the second vocalist in the group and sings exclusively in Japanese. Her songs have a very different tone to them compared to those sung by McKenzie, the music taking on a different beat to match the delivery of her carefully placed syllables. “Sakura” and “The Procession” have a delicate music box quality (although the presence of tuba on the latter track certainly beefs it up), Honda’s voice haunting the melodies. Honda’s crowning achievement however comes with “The Ocean” which complements the tone of “The Bringer” and bookends the album nicely.

It is hard to get these songs out of my head after listening to Ringing for the Begin Again, even the songs in Japanese stick in my brain for hours. Elfin Saddle combine incredibly infectious songwriting with a real passion that sets them apart from other quirky indie acts. Being based in Canada and with the huge list of instruments used on the album (guitar, ukulele, saw, drums, accordion, banjo, xylophone, tuba, violin, etc.) they could easily mistaken as a Broken Social Scene “everything including the kitchen sink” kind of band but they have a simplicity and humanity to them that the likes of Broken Social Scene lack.

Written by John Kealy - Brainwashed


Gigantic Mother / Wounded Child CD (Kill Devil Hills, 2008)
Water Mother Digital EP (Villa Villa Nola, 2008)
Ringing For The Begin Again CD/LP (Constellation, 2009)
Wurld DVD / 10" (Constellation, 2010)



Elfin Saddle is the evolved musical project of scavenger artists Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie. Prompted by their need to downsize an accumulation of musical instruments and objects in their migration to Montreal from Victoria, BC, Elfin Saddle focuses on the creative use of a compact array of acoustic instruments, including prepared accordion, banjo, and guitars, musical saw, and ad-hoc percussion setups. Having collaborated for years on various visual art and sound projects, Elfin Saddle is a fresh culmination of the ideas and ideals shared by both artists.

Emi, originally from southern Japan, moved to Vancouver Island in the late 90’s. She immediately became fascinated with the lush landscape and local flora, and began gardening, and building visually complex, mechanical assemblage sculptures, which she began to exhibit in local galleries. Jordan, also living on the island, and working in a similar vein in art school, happened upon one of these. Recognizing the eerily similar themes in each others work and sharing an affinity for the natural landscape, the two soon became friends, triggering an extended wave of collaborative projects, both visual and musical.

Since moving to Montreal in 2006, Elfin Saddle have been steadily gaining audience and acclaim for their highly original, multi-faceted work. Having recently expanded their practice to include video art, Jordan and Emi’s 'Wurld' uses time-lapse photography and stop-motion animation to capture the growth and sculptural development of a small backyard garden plot. The duo have toured this film along with musical performance in Europe including a world premiere at the Viennale International film festival in Vienna and a North American premiere at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Wurld is also the title of Elfin Saddle’s second release on Montreal’s Constellation Records, a multi-media DVD featuring the film and a number of other video and audio works. Elfin Saddle continues to perform in various configurations locally and internationally.