Review Summary: June in my backyard
The cover of A Year With 13 Moons
, the newest offering from drone mainstay Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, is unassuming. Strokes of colour adorn the otherwise plain backdrop, perhaps resulting from a frustrating outburst of emotions. The random squiggles display nonlinear thought patterns, while the colours represent conflicting mindsets. Between it all is empty space, allowing room for emotions constantly in flux. As opener “The Last Time I Saw Your Face” takes form, this analogy becomes more thematic as 13 Moons
is, ultimately, an ‘empty’ work, bearing signs of incompletion. I mean that not in its composition, but in whatever experiences underpin the forty-minute piece, as Cantu-Ledesma seems to draw from personal shortcomings. The album alludes to a failed relationship and various problems riding in its wake. For anyone who’s experienced the end of a long-term bond, it’s not difficult to see Jefre’s angle: when relationship A fails, the question of ‘will I ever be happy again?’ invades our thoughts until relationship B (the rebound) interrupts them, though perhaps only temporarily. The result is often a false happiness, rife with frail self-assurances and avoidance.
The pairing of the opener with follow-up “Love After Love” illustrates this poignantly. “The Last Time I Saw Your Face” is largely peaceful, obliviously so, hinging on swelling, nostalgic drones. As it progresses, concrète noises introduce a theme of artificiality, and Jefre is pulled back to reality in a state of questioning that he struggles to drown out with lush textures. When the song winds down, pulsing sub-bass bears the markings of contemplation, as Jefre sobers up, growing anxious. “Love After Love” begins with harsh feedback and disjointed hums which blossom into full-bodied soundscapes, though the mechanical background noises suggest feigned happiness; it all feels very put on
, as it should. As the narrative of 13 Moons
presses onward it grows nonlinear, resembling scattered, dream-like sequences which form an unnervingly beautiful photo album. Many tracks are titled esoterically, bearing meaning only to Cantu-Ledesma himself, serving as postcards to places he remembers upon reciting his past - such as “Agate Beach” or “Along the Isar”. As the recordings unfold, one might draw a loose comparison with The Matrix
: the question of whether or not artificial happiness is worth it if you’re oblivious to the facade. When “At the End of Spring" (comforting and blissful) and “Remains” (harsh and despondent) close the album respectively, it’s anyone’s guess where Cantu-Ledesma stands on the matter, or if he yearns for amnesia.
The forgetfulness of 13 Moons
strikes me as a breakup that’s both ideal and realistic in its inevitability. It’s introspective, jarring, often ambivalent, and fleeting; I say that as a partial compliment. While it’s likely the result of heartbreak, Jefre has found peace - an artificial, discordant one, but peace
nonetheless. As the album concludes, the flashbacks seem to swirl together, bearing as much consequence as a puff of smoke. I like that.