Itasca – Open to chance (Paradise of Bachelors)
This is a record I’ve been digging a lot for the past couple of months, on a label that is consistently reliable for offering authentic and intriguing cuts.
Layla Cohen is the woman who goes under the name Itasca (a composite of the Latin words for “truth” – veritas - and “head” – caput - apparently). She lives in Los Angeles and there is a shimmering, heat-induced quality to her plaintiff, straightforwardly beautiful folk songs.
Above the delicate guitar figures and woozy mix of steel guitar and keys, Cohen’s voice drifts with an elegance that is particularly moving. There’s a purity to it, a muted tone, something like a soft bell or chime, somehow reminding me of Joni Mitchell more than anyone else, although free of any of Mitchell’s vibrato or baroque stylings. Soft alright but insistent and beguiling.
It’s an album that sounds a little out of time but all the better for that.
A majestic and authoritative document.
This from the label one sheet (which in the case of Paradise of Bachelors are always miniature works of art in their own right) -
Though deeply informed by the mythology and iconography of the modern American desert West, Cohen likewise finds kinship with a lineage of English iconoclasts such as Michael Chapman and Bridget St John. Her adept, fingerstyle guitar work—nimble but unshowy, always at the service of framing her plaintively unspooling modal progressions and sonorous vocals—centers Itasca’s melancholy pastorales in a hazy, heat-mirage space equally suggestive of familiarity and distance, community and anomie.