Music by VICE

Felicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma Made 2016's Most Beautifully Depressing Album So Far

'Comme Un Seul Narcisse' takes ambient music to contextless, alien realms.

by Colin Joyce
Mar 17 2016, 4:25pm

France-based sound artist Felicia Atkinson and New York ambient composer Jefre Cantu-Ledesma may have labeled their first collaborative record after a Baudelaire quote decrying the proliferation of photography in the late 19th century, but then, you wouldn't know that without the help of Google most likely. Comme Un Seul Narcisse ("Like a Single Narcissus," in English) comes stripped of context, retaining the phrase's beauty but not its didactic power, which is sort of the approach that the pair take over the course of the 10 beautifully diffuse pieces that make up the record. They take found sounds, removed them from their logical order, retaining their compelling shapes but removing their associations.

Samples of footsteps clacking across hardwood floor, clinking silverware, and open air collide with one another, crafting abstract spaces and narratives that couldn't reasonably exist in the real world—it's a dizzying and disorienting effect, but one that primes you to absorb the record's more melodic moments. A fragmented piano melody, a gentle hum from Atkinson, or one of Cantu-Ledesma's placid synth lines can become a tugboat in the alien waters, guidance in the midst of confusing environs. No doubt, these more legibly musical segments are sorrowful, distraught, and placid, but it's an inviting sort of depression that ask you to slow down, sink in, and turn yourself an abyss that you yourself chose.

Over the course of the last half decade or so, the Atkinson and Cantu-Ledesma have established themselves as among the world's best in coaxing feeling out of abstraction, and though Comme Un Seul Narcisse feels pretty much nothing like the former's intimate collagist work or the latter's deprivation-tank drone work. Their combined efforts are maybe even affecting as you'd want them to be, a compelling reflection of the beauty and the frigidity in the world around us.

Comme Un Seul Narcisse is out March 21 on Shelter Press, which Atkinson helps run, but you can order it now on Boomkat and stream it right here.