Album | Itasca – Imitation of War

In the four years since Itasca’s Spring the world has changed completely, so there may be no antecedents for Imitation of War. It is an electric album, but one with a delicacy unlike anything else heard this year. It exists out of time even as it has a sense of places and pathways dating back 50 years or more. Swirling and swaying it hints at everything from Fairport Convention to the Grateful Dead, without quoting them and displaying a sense of softness and simplicity difficult to match or master. 

The guitar patterns of ‘Milk’ weave a spell while Kayla Cohen sings of saints and mythology, all while being haunted by the beauty of the Sierra landscapes during a wildfire at dusk. Gentleness and mystery walk hand in hand as the sparse musical accompaniment fills one with timeless tones and textures. Images from the song dance through your brain, “hours in the day/ I am footsteps on the ridge/ I’m piling my sand/ remembering your face/ in Orion.” 

The sturdy opening of ‘Imitation of War’ quickly peels back and the song rambles down a series of pathways as tempos change in a heartbeat, speeding and slowing on a journey to the dust and sage brush. Corridors are explored as guitar solos get cast to the winds. In a world where conformity is abhorred, courses are charted while tempos are extended to examine the possibilities that exist as beats are stretched. A wordless mythology conjures images of centuries in the west. 

The slow epic open of ‘Tears on Sky Mountain’ is schooled in an English-style slow motion reverie before assuming layers of dust from the western winds. The ability of Kayla Cohen and her band seem to exist outside the time and tides of today, while songs may seem to start with traditional frameworks, slowly they develop with different turns like ‘Dancing Woman’, where soft twirls change form, drawing the song along new frameworks.

Imitation of War dances with a smouldering grace, establishing the conscious and unconscious steps we take as Cohen suggests, “imitating peace or war through our antagonisms, intended or not, through the ways we’ve all learned to be.” What we learn along the way helps us to master new ways of thinking and being. With Imitation of War Itasca is finding new ways to walk in a world shaped by what we do and who we are.