Jefre Cantu-Ledesma A Year with 13 Moons

[Mexican Summer; 2015]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: drone, tape loops, shoegaze, pop
Others: Fennesz, Tim Hecker, William Basinski

When Jefre Cantu-Ledesma took up his residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, he began making field recordings on his way to the studio. The recordings were of course subject to chance, dependent on the route he took to work, the weather, and the people he encountered. And yet, they all became a framework for A Year With 13 Moons, fluctuating thick and thin in their prominence as Cantu-Ledesma surrendered to the organic direction of his aesthetic. In this way, it seems, he submitted to the transcendental flow of each resulting sound, which complements the mood that’s since been carved into the album’s makeup. And by leaving the fate of his music to chance while “somehow translating the fog of images, people and places,” Cantu-Ledesma mirrors the very premise that steered his compositional aspiration: memory, and all of the uncertainties that come with it.

As such, while each track on A Year With 13 Moons is wonderfully explicit, the intricacies are ruffled and blurred by tides of distortion and reverb. And while the form of each piece is assertive and assured, the details are strenuous to exhume, depending on how we choose to investigate them. And this is how we live our lives: details can appear equally as blurred and unclear; one might remember sitting on a beach with a friend, but the particulars of the setting — cloud formations, the time of day, etc. — seem to alter in accordance to the direction of one’s continued relationship with that person. The everyday randomness of the event is incidental, but it adds a layer of detail that makes it yours, before it becomes smeared, mixed, and muddled with other recollections.

For 13 Moons, that means letting go of the structures Cantu-Ledesma might otherwise have built into his artistic technique, whether on a new solo project, putting on a show with Bill Kouligas, or collaborating with Liz Harris on the next Raum record. As a process, it signifies an acceptance of chance elements, extending the limits of control either by capturing field recordings and leaving an integral component of the album to nature or by stretching out riffs and drum patterns to articulate memories and the ways in which they are stored. Documenting that sensation through music without clouding it with nostalgia is near impossible, especially when the track titles allude to specific individuals and moments in time. However, Cantu-Ledesma uses his instruments to guide him, not only by employing drum machines as a tender inflection to hiss and drone, but also by way of powerful static blasts, jarring interruptions that focus the mind on the work as a whole, a representation of assorted memories within a two-year period that amount equally to artistic collaboration and moments of unease.

Although the album title references director Fassbinder’s 1978 West German drama in which the protagonist revisits moments of her life before committing suicide, 13 Moons captures a sense of place that is essential to the memories of the artist at hand. But as living environments, neither Berlin nor San Francisco are critical here, because the attachments we form with places are transferable to any location; it’s the moving and the relocation of one’s life, as well as the detachment of all the memories and feelings that come with it, that give meaning to the physical act and then, ultimately, the process of reflection. Creating a record that was based on such experiences while allowing enough room for the audience to engage emotionally is tough, but as one peeks through the shattered riffs and splitting ecstasy of Cantu-Ledesma’s palette, every track offers an entry point into this delicate yet difficult headspace. Indeed, 13 Moons is a celebration of fading detail, a reminder that we’ll only ever continue to forget.

Links: Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Mexican Summer

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