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Hey! Manchester Presents Itasca
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Itasca is the musical identity of Los Angeles-based guitarist, singer and songwriter Kayla Cohen. Just as the name itself is ambiguous – a 19th Century pseudo-Ojibwe place name and portmanteau of the Latin words for ‘truth’ (veritas) and ‘head’ (caput) – so too is Cohen’s musical project mutable and multivalent: fundamentally unconcerned with genre, but richly allusive of the hermetic worlds of private-press canyon-cult mystics and East Coast noiseniks alike.
Cohen, who grew up in New York state near the Hudson River, moved from Brooklyn to LA in 2011. Though she began playing guitar at age 13, her songwriting idiom emerged gradually from her longstanding noise and drone practice. Her out-of-time recordings as Itasca – refined over the course of several releases, including the acclaimed 2014 LP Unmoored by the Wind (New Images) – reflects both this dislocated geography and her Janus-faced gaze towards both baroque, acid folk-inflected songcraft and deconstructive, textural sonics.
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 gorgeous, moonlit voice – centres Itasca’s melancholy pastorales in a hazy, heat-mirage space equally suggestive of familiarity and distance, community and anomie.
Open to Chance, Itasca’s 2016 album on Paradise of Bachelors, is her first to feature the full band with whom she currently records and tours, including pedal steel player and frequent collaborator Dave McPeters, drummer Coleman Guyon (and occasionally Kacey Johansing) and bassist and vocalist Julia Nowak.
Support comes from Johnny Powell and the Seasonal Beasts, a brand new alt-folk band. Their first track has already received BBC 6 Music air play, with BBC Introducing declaring ‘we have all fallen in love with this in the studio’. The music is mindful, delicate and thought-provoking, in the vein of Bill Callahan, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Sparklehorse and Bon Iver.
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