Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier - Discovering Mathematics 2 (No Kings, 2011)

The sound and style of Belgium’s Felicia Atkinson may be eerily similar to the ethereal sound of America’s soft ambience primadonna, Rachel Evans (a.k.a. Motion Sickness of Time Travel). But it’s hard to tell who’s being inspired by who, considering Atkinson was born in 1981 and Evans was born in 1988. Perhaps all sorts of age/experience permutations should be discarded and the similarity of both styles are purely coincidental – both musicians could conjure up their trademark style with no knowledge of the other one whatsoever. Maybe the music of MSoTT and JSLPC is a blend of an artistic spirit and an innate female sensitivity and emotional intelligence most males either lack or just don’t possess in a level that equals women.
Listening to Discovering Mathematics 2 might be like watching clouds – they might move, pushed by the wind, but their shape doesn’t change. But when you look at them a few minutes later, you realize they look completely different. Such is the case with the tracks on the cassette: they appear to keep the same drone, to repeat the same pattern of sounds over and over again, but near the end you realize it’s a completely different sound. JSLPC’s sound unfolds and changes very slowly over time, relying on angelic, phased reverb and sparse, percussive sounds, like the looped high-pitched sample on “Radiant Cheeks”.
Like Rachel Evans, Felicia Atkinson also makes use of her voice, but in a different way – while for Evans her own voice is often the basis on which she builds her entire tracks, putting synth lines over the echoed moans and proto-singing, Atkinson prefers to tell a story, turning Discovering… into more performance-based, spoken word territory. “Dust Stadium Delusion”, a track beginning side B is an example of that. Processed moans pave the way for Atkinson telling a story (or reading poetry, perhaps her own) in French and English. The melody in the track is so dissolved it makes MSoTT’s music seem tightly constructed and raw. However, Atkinson can create not only blurry dream sequences, but also go into a more busy, almost noisy field – like on “Split Screen Lava Beds 2”, which features a dense cluster of distorted, densely layered guitar-like sound and dissonant drones. However, this turns out to be just a brief contact with sonic horror, as the closing “Teepee Sleep” provides a calm, hypnagogic vista.
Felicia Atkinson blends her music, visual art and writing into a seemingly unseparable unity – the music on Discovering Mathematics 2 could as well be a live recording of one of her performances, carried out in a gallery. Like a truly creative mind, she doesn’t need (or want) anyone else’s music to illustrate her visions. She creates her own worlds entirely by herself, both visually and musically.

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