THE GHOST, THE ELF, THE CAT AND THE ANGEL
Original Issue: 2002 Bluesanct (INRI 065)
Margot-meter: 4,5 moons / 5
1 The Roots Of The Butterfly Bush (3:31)
2 Black Strung Bow (1:00)
3 Afternoons Like This Are Hard To Come By (7:22)
4 Raga (In D#) (6:44)
5 Cycle Circle (4:40)
6 The Falling Of The Pine (9:54)
7 Ich Tanzte Weit (2:09)
8 New Magic In A Dusty World (1:58)
9 Let No Man Steal Your Thyme (3:55)
10 The Nameless One (4:08)
11 Unfortunate Lass (5:40)
from All Music Guide:
Though they're from Rhode Island, the duo comprising Iditarod (Carin Wagner and Jeffrey Alexander) sound quite a bit like a British psychedelic-tinged folk or folk-rock act.
Those enamored of the sound of vintage artists in that tributary, like Donovan, the Incredible String Band, and Pentangle -- and of more recent artists that obviously owe something to that style, like Robyn Hitchcock and (far more obscurely) Damien Youth -- might well be inclined to enjoy this record, though it's not explicitly imitative of any of those artists.
While the music's often acoustic guitar-based, the pair play a pretty impressive range of instruments on this CD, from moog and wine glasses to tamboura, singing bowl, and chimes, with some other musicians adding touches on cello, recorder, bouzouki, and more. As the title indicates, there's a mythological-stroll-in-the-forest tinge to their approach, with some electronic effects and backwards-distorted guitar lines adding a bit of psychedelia, without ever submerging the essentially folky ambience.
They may be mood-setters more than they are songwriters, but the mood's a good one: melancholy, subdued, and slightly eerie folk-rock, with quite a bit of varied texture, and an avoidance of the drone and monotony that afflict many other bands working similar territory. The vocals, as befits such material, are suitably fragile and wistful, if not exceptional, broken up by haunting instrumentals that have a touch of exotic (sometimes Indian) mystery.
from Dusted Reviews:
The Iditarod, a pagan folk-psych duo (Carin Wagner and Jeffrey Alexander) from Providence, Rhode Island, is group of such artists. Their latest full-length The Ghost, The Elf, The Cat, and The Angel combines eclectic acoustic instrumentation (acoustic guitars, tamboura, dulcimers, bongos, bells, singing bowls, musical saws) with electronics (moogs, turntables, phonographs) in meandering arrangements and ambient treatments of medieval folk songs.
Titles like "The Roots of The Butterfly Bush", "Afternoons Like This Are Hard To Come By", and "New Magic in a Dusty World" might lead one to think that The Ghost, The Elf, The Cat, and The Angel should be catalogued along side the Brit-folk romps of The Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and The Incredible String Band, but this is not the case.
Electronic drones and layers of low-end strings expand the songs and turn them into brooding pieces of ambient bad vibe. Although the influence of 60's British folk is clearly evident on their cover of the traditional "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" (a song that Pentangle made famous in '68) The Iditarod's somber approach gives the song a hollow funereal feel that sounds like it is being sung by heavily sedated Nico or a half-asleep Mary Timony.
These comparisons could be compliments or insults depending on your politics, either way I don't believe The Iditarod have hit their stride yet. The ever present Grimm's fairy tale and druid aesthetic wears thin after a couple of minutes and the band too often sacrifices the subtleties of songcraft in favor of dark atmospherics (a fate I'm afraid too many psych-bands succumb to).
Fans of Loren Mazzacane Connors and Ghost (two Terrastock faves) may enjoy The Ghost, The Elf, The Cat, and The Angel, but I only say this because the patience I lose with The Iditarod is the same patience I lose with them. Too much attention to texture and mood simply leaves the songs self-conscious and unmoving. Mixing the detached ethereality of great British folk with the tones and textures of the contemporary avant-garde can be a match made in psych-heaven, but more often than naught, it comes across as forced and transparent.
If you really need such a thing to get you through the night, you might do better by P.G. Six's recent Parlor Tricks And Porch Favorites, the Tower Recordings re-issue of Folkscene, Appendix Out's The Night Is Advancing, or even Alastair Galbraith's Cry.