[As most now know, Jordan McKenzie passed away accidentally on 18 January 2016 on Hornby Island, British Columbia. We are shattered and saddened and our hearts go out to his beloved partner Emi, and to his family and friends.]
Elfin Saddle is the musical project of Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie, both of whom are also practicing visual artists working in a variety of media, with an emphasis on scavenger art installations, kinetic sculpture (often with an audio component) and video work. Their work often engages with questions of (over)consumption, waste/detritus, and the degradation of lived and natural environments. The music of Elfin Saddle similarly reflects all these techniques and concerns; the group uses a wide array of found objects, junkyard percussion and other recuperated instruments (mostly acoustic: accordion, xylophone, ukelele) to create an avant-folk global protest music that combines Japanese and Canadian folkways with postpunk, drone, noise and other 21st century influences and sensibilities.
Honda, originally from southern Japan, moved to Vancouver Island in the late 90s and was immediately fascinated with the lush landscape and local flora. She began gardening and building visually complex, mechanical assemblage sculptures, which she exhibited in local galleries. McKenzie, who was also living on the island and working a similar vein in art school, happened upon one of these sculptures. Recognizing the eerily similar themes in each other’s work and sharing various affinities, the two quickly became friends, triggering waves of artistic collaboration. Sound Stories, a early musical project of Jordan’s that incorporated homemade sound machines, prepared records, storytelling, and a revolving cast of friends, was eventually joined by Emi. The two also began playing as a duo and made several recordings that were released on Westhome, Jordan’s own small imprint. They also collaborated on multi-sensory art installations, comprising rooms full of scavenged objects, organic materials and plastic detritus, rigged up with old motors, timers, gears and wires to create carefully composed otherworldly landscapes with auto-kinetic loops of micro-mechanical routines and sound-generating processes. A series of exhibitions with fellow Victoria artist Scott Evans in the mid-2000s was the culmination of this work and of Honda and McKenzie's time as practicing artists on the west coast.
Emi and Jordan relocated to Montréal in 2006; presented with the collaborative spirit and wide range of venues in their new environment, they began pursuing music-making and live performance as Elfin Saddle more intensively. They home-recorded the first official Elfin Saddle album Gigantic Mother/Wounded Child and released it on Kill Devil Hills Records in early 2008. Continuing to gain musical momentum, they recruited upright bass and tuba player Nathan Gage (Shapes & Sizes) and captured a clutch of striking new tunes for their second proper full-length and first for Constellation, Ringing For The Begin Again (2009), at the Hotel2Tango with Efrim Menuck (Silver Mt. Zion, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) at the helm for recording and mixing.
Emi and Jordan completed their first major video work the following year, the 23-minute stop-motion film Wurld, which went on to receive a world premiere at the Vienna International Film Festival and a Canadian premiere at the Montreal Museum Of Contemporary Art. Both of these screenings included a live Elfin Saddle performance, and the Montreal concert was documented for eventual inclusion, along with various other materials, in a special limited-edition handmade release of Wurld on DVD/10" vinyl released at the end of 2010. The superlative visual artwork of Honda and McKenzie is on especially fine display in the deluxe packaging for this release and is a striking component of every Elfin Saddle album.
Elfin Saddle spent 2011 writing new music, developing a new longform video project, gigging around Eastern Canada, and adding cellist Kristina Koropecki (who had guested on Ringing) as an official fourth member of the band.
Elfin Saddle's latest album Devastates was released in March 2012 to broad critical acclaim. The group is making some of the most intelligent, vital-sounding, genre-defying acoustic protest music we've heard in recent years.