Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Songs of Forgiveness (Baro Records, 2014)

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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma has been a relatively influential name in the world of Noise and Drone music for the last seven years or so, producing sometimes twisted, but always evocative, thick vistas of mulched sound; his 2010 release Love Is A Stream is widely accepted as his best work and certainly one of my favourites also, melding Fennesz-esque Electro-acoustic destruction to glorious sequences of glowing, romantic Drone. It seems strange the, for a man who has  produced albums named Shining Skull Breath and Speaking Corpse to produce an album like Songs of Forgiveness which, one could argue, appears to have more than a few fingers in the Vaporwave pie.

I’m hesitant to outright call this a Vapourwave release though, since by and large it doesn’t seem to subscribe to the “aesthetic” of which Vapourwave has built for itself, one of retro nostalgia and the deconstruction of  aged commercial and background music for conceptual purposes, even if perhaps it does have some of the idiosyncrasies. I mean, it’s hard not to make some connections right from the off, as Side A spins out 10 minutes (in its first sequence) of dreamy, reductionist guitar and slowed drums, all encased in a gauzy haze of pink reverb. That sort of echoic, VHS vibe that Vaporwave seems to exude isn’t too far removed from the hypnagogy of its quiet and circular reflection. Things abruptly get mixed up in the second half of Side A as the stable and repetitious initial chapter is switched out for one that admittedly is almost identical in its riff but more distal in its reverb and more decrepit and damaged, little skips in the melody and currents of grating low-fidelity abrading its passage.

Side B, predictably, is more of the same tired riffs rolling over each other, although whilst there is a hint of original damage shining through from the first side as expressed in a warbling and tattered backing drone line, everything else seems to be just that little bit clearer and brighter, the original distortion and speed reduction dialled back just enough to let the melody come through just that bit clearer. As it shifts into its second chapter it does so rather abrasively, phasing into its next lot of circular riffs through pointed and obnoxious laser beam synths, each one rolling into a stuttering and grating mass. That being said, once the interlude has cleared it moves into a rather pleasant and drifting set of downtempo riffs that are content to see us to the end in a wash of lazing, mellow reverb. The ending is surprising then; a final third sequence that comes out of nowhere with an extremely minimal guitar line and intermittently abrasive intrusions that squeal and writhe through the mix like a detuned radio, whilst the entire entity slowly fades to black and closes the curtains finally.

If there was to ever be a reinvention of William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops as Hypnagogic Pop, this would probably be it, carving out its beauteous and mellow loops in a placid haze of wistful and acceptant reverb. Whilst in some capacity they’re comparable, of course Cantu-Ledesma’s own constructions do not rival that of Basinski’s, and I’m really uncertain as to the stopping power of this release. It’s charming and beauteous in its own way, and I do find it a pleasantly relaxing record for downtime listening, but it just feels deeply shallow and hollow to me, drawn out for too long and with too little meaningful content. The electronically grating moments are also rather damaging to the overall mood as well I feel. It’s an interesting but largely underwhelming experience for me.

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