Wednesday, December 8, 2010


A gorgeous smear of thick, corrupted guitar wash swirling across your brain in a syrupy haze. Since his work in Tarentel Jefre Cantu-Ledesma has kept himself busy in a variety of projects, not a single one of which came close to matching the beauty or epic grandeur of Tarentel's austere slow-burn marches into oblivion. What a fucking delight to hear this record, Cantu-Ledesma's return to the all out sheer physicality of guitar froth dumped on the listener, a psychic massage and a dripping pillow of fogged up ambience. It's absolutely stunning in the vein of Tim Hecker or Lovesliescrushing and represents one of the purest distillations of Kevin Shields' legacy this side of Mogwai's "Helicon 1."
This record plays off as one long sonic blur, a 45 minute blast of hypershimmer and computer-effected feedback terrorism sculpted into towering sheets of blanketing void. It's a windstorm of loveliness, a super dense web of sound that reveals more and more the higher you turn up the volume. Maximum punishment yields maximum beauty, to paraphrase the Sunn O))) maxim. Obviously this sound has been done before by some very capable hands but Cantu-Ledesma's contribution to the dream-pop canon sits nicely amongst the bunch, a portrait rendered by a master craftsman that both reveres and draws upon the influences that came before. "Love is a Stream" is a warm, inviting piece that cloaks you from the first second, and while throughout the trip there are moments of emotional vulnerability as well as ominous sadness for the most part this is a comfort zone. It's a rainbow of sound and drone. Gone is the darkness and icy mystery found in the comparable work of Tim Hecker, replaced by a welcoming rumble and a swirling color wheel of tone. Gone too is the frigid etherealness of Lovesliescrushing and the focus on vocal texture-"Love is a Stream" relies much more heavily on treated guitars and near-blown amplifiers. What's left is simply the awesome power of the electric guitar, the volatile destruction that My Bloody Valentine showed audiences was possible when in the right hands. Cantu-Ledesma doesn't shy away from that influence here, instead embracing the textures and clouds of sound that the instrument and the amplifiers can conjure from the nexus. In a period where so many neo-shoegaze acts are relying on structure and songs, Cantu-Ledesma goes the opposite direction and lays down 12 ink blots of mesmerizing, nauseous beauty with no regard to structure or the vaguest notion of form. It's wonderful stuff, really, and a fitting progression (finally) from the potential for monstrousness that Tarentel hinted at on their debut so many years ago. Tarentel never exploded the way Mogwai did; rather, they built and built and built until the destination was so hazed over that the ending became inscrutable. Tarentel were looking to get lost, and here Cantu-Ledesma has crafted an endless map of infinite expanse.
Complimenting the album proper is the slightly less successful collaborative effort created with pitch-black soundscapist Xela, "Love is A Dream." Here the compositions are smaller, less dense and far less inviting, falling victim to Xela's tunnel-vision paranoid isolationism, creating a feeling of falling down a small, deep hole with no bottom. This record pulls rather than caresses, suffocates rather than aerates. While this approach isn't unexpected for anyone familiar with Xela's aesthetic, nor disappointing in those terms, when bookended with "Love is a Stream" is seems far less impressive and haunting. Taken on its own it might have been seen as something of a frightening inward drone-journey, where black is the end and grey the path, and certainly a departure for Cantu-Ledesma. When viewed as part of the larger work, however, it becomes unnecessary, a 42 minute pull away from the heavenly pastures of what came before. Interesting and well-made, certainly, but not essential. Hopefully Cantu-Ledesma will continue his work in this vein without the contribution of those aesthetically opposed to his creations.

No comments: