Felicia Atkinson, La La La

Here’s an oddity – a slight (only 30 minutes), scrappy album that somehow contrives to hang together better than many more polished, outwardly ‘conceptual’ works.  Felicia Atkinson recorded short vocal and instrumental pieces at home, then subjected them to editing and post-production with collaborator Sylvain Chauveau.  The results are tentative and fragmentary, calling attention to their own provisional status with frequent jarring edits and buckets of tape hiss.  Yet the record possesses a rickety charm that contributes to its being far more than the sum of its parts, thanks in large part to Atkinson’s beautifully intimate-sounding voice and the inspired touches of instrumental colour that span the songs.

I should really stop reading press releases, they are not good for my blood pressure.  The press release for La La La (penned, apparently, by Atkinson herself) claims that the editing and post-production on the record were done “in the aim of keeping something very oral, inspired and spontaneous”.  This is obviously nonsense, since the very act of editing removes much of the spontaneity from the recordings.  In any event spontaneity is a chimera, not worth pursuing when the edited product is as intriguing and eminently listenable as this one turns out to be.

Atkinson’s modest, hesitant vocals recall those of Christina Carter on her superb recent CD-Rs, Masque Femine and A Blossom Fell.  Mixed in with fragments of acoustic guitar, piano and glockenspiel, they share that spooky, late-night, almost Jandekian intimacy that made Carter’s albums so special.  But the recordings also have a distancing effect, disrupting that sense of closeness with glitches and moments where the tape hiss suddenly comes and goes.  Additionally, parts of some songs are sung in French and German (the latter being a recital of a poem by Paul Celan), reinforcing that rich impression of otherness that pervades the record.  I like this album very much, it has a haunted and disorientating vibe that makes it extremely special.  Nice packaging, too – a large format greeting card-size cover printed on thick cardboard, with a recess to house the CD and adorned by Atkinson’s skeletal drawings and calligraphy.

 (Originally published in The Sound Projector 18, 2009)

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