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Institute 193 and WRFL 88.1 FM Radio Free Lexington are pleased to present the fifth in an ongoing series of experimental music performances, curated and organized by Robert Beatty/Three Legged Race.
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's 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. 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—centers Itasca’s melancholy pastorales in a hazy, heat-mirage space equally suggestive of familiarity and distance, community and anomie.
Itasca’s upcoming 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.