Release Date: Feb 10, 2015
Record label: Mexican Summer
Genre(s): Electronic, Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Experimental Rock, Experimental Ambient, Experimental Electronic
While the otherworldly sonics of highly influential bands like Loop, Curve, and My Bloody Valentine have inspired legions of shoegaze revivalists, very rarely has the next wave of guitar mangling indie bands risen to the fuzzy heights of narcotic euphoria that made the original crop of shoegaze bands so exciting to begin with. With his 2010 solo record Love Is a Stream, sound artist Jefre Cantu-Ledesma did more than just emulate the wild dreaminess of early shoegaze sounds with a series of pedals. His tape-saturated instrumentals sounded simultaneously broadcast from under feet of snow and from alien worlds, capturing the same spirit of beautiful unknown as the best of the shoegaze canon but expanding on it texturally.
Perhaps best known as the founder of the Root Strata label, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma has kept himself almost dizzyingly busy in his musical career. Whether recording under his own name or coordinating with artists like Grouper (as Raum), Arp (as the Alps) or with a rotating cast of collaborators as Tarantel, he's been central to projects that run the gamut from astral drone to lyrical post-rock. Now, for his first label-affiliated album since 2010's Love Is A Stream on Type, Cantu-Ledesma returns with A Year With 13 Moons.This album is a result of Cantu-Ledesma finding himself at a sort of crossroads.
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.
It's strange to think that it's been nearly five years since Jefre Cantu-Ledesma released Love is a Stream, his previous solo full-length LP. That album's blend of careening noise and angelic bliss feels almost timeless; it's certainly as enjoyable today as it was upon its release. A Year With 13 Moons takes up the blown-out, shoegazing torch and embellishes it greatly.
Despite the shoegazing sonics, the title of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's A Year With 13 Moons looks skyward: this is a star-crossed album, in multiple ways. It was recorded after the dissolution of the prolific experimental musician's marriage, a breakup that sent him back to the Bay Area after several years in Germany. And it was meant for release on a different label—a plan that fell through, for reasons unclear and perhaps unimportant, given that Mexican Summer gave the record a good home, and, potentially, a larger audience than Cantu-Ledesma is used to with his own Root Strata imprint.
It can be all too easy to take an artist like Jefre Cantu-Ledesma for granted. Like contemporaries such as Liz Harris, his collaborator on the Raum drone project, or Pete Swanson, to whom he dedicated ‘Distant Star’ from Shining Skull Breath, Cantu-Ledesma is endlessly prolific, with several cassettes, LPs, CDrs and DVD collaborations with the visual artist Paul Clipson to his name. Yet it would be amiss to pretend that they all reach the same levels of quality; quite often, a release such as last year’s Eternal Spring will riff on the same theme or sonic palette for the length of an LP, containing the occasional gem but serving more as an extended single piece or document of a specific time than a fleshed-out work proper.