Following on her 2016 album for Paradise of Bachelors Kayla Cohen resumes her guise as Itasca for a hushed tape of intricate, fingerpicked folk for micro label Dove Cove. The tape is presented in collaboration with poet and visual artist Gunnar Tchida, who provides the album’s titles and accompanying artwork as inspiration. Cohen’s folk has a twilight quality to it, rambling through deft string work that recalls Daniel Bachman and Alexander among a few others from the current Fahey school of blues ramblers. Skewing from her contemporaries though, she injects a fragile peacefulness into her pieces that sends the knotted tumbles scattering in the wind, consumed by the hiss of tape, the howl of the wind and the ozone fry of an amplifier. On tracks like “Snow Melt,” she’s working closer to the shadow of Ben Chasney to channel the restrained smolder of angry fuzz that’s burning up the strings like a fuse. Elsewhere she dampens the ramble to a hush and works in weaves of straightforward folk with a verdant lope of guitar that pushes the meditative qualities to the fore.
If this is just a stopgap, then it’s a rather well landing one, divining meditative tangles from the ideas laid out in Tchida’s titles. It’s a departure from her more glossy work for PoB, but one that makes up for fidelity with intimacy. The work of Itasca communes with nature so well it’s almost a shame that this is released in the damp of winter’s chill. It begs to be walked around outside. While I’d imagine this is less of a burden in her current surroundings in California, those of us stuck back near her native Hudson Valley feel the cabin fever only grow tighter while this plays on the speakers. Still, the melt is soon to come and by then the wood and sinew grooves of Morning Flower will have wrapped the brain tightly with their knotted embrace.
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