Review: En + Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Split

The foundations for Blood were recorded around April 2012, as EN prepared to join Grouper for a handful of dates in Japan. I can imagine the atmospheric contrast sparked in the transition between the two artists. Where Liz Harris’ music evokes a certain murky disconnection – an artist losing her sense of self, smearing her voice into something alien and indistinct – EN pursue a more purposeful and optimistic transcendence. Grouper saps the colours, falling helplessly into the drear and mourning of misplacement, while En send vibrancy into overdrive, bathing in sunbeams of guitar and synthesiser, euphorically lost within a state of ambient enlightening.

Is this 26-minute piece an anticipation of the landscape they were soon to inhabit? A blurry, half-painted foresight into Japan’s synonymous serenity and flowing traditional architecture? At certain points it feels like it. Those soft plucked strings of the first three minutes drop into the quiet like tears on a still lake, rippling across the mirror surface with flutters of delay, while violins and a vapour of white noise seeps gradually into the picture, commencing EN’s shift into a blurry sensory saturation. At 20 minutes the piece is a lush field seen through eyes squinting against the glare of sunlight and daffodils; a bright organ chord spanning into forever, flecked with wah-pedal synthesiser droplets.

On the flipside is a reshaping of the source material by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. A brief, 100-second spurt turns EN’s fluid ambient waterfall into a spluttery jet of noise, while the subsequent 18-minute piece acts as the lethargic aftermath of such concentrated ecstasy. It collapses into the gloom of muffled chimes and found sounds as heard through a veil, like headlights dimmed and scattered by the fog. Funnily enough we’re in Grouper territory again – disconnected and lost, wallowing in the subterranean depths that bring equilibrium to the euphoric clarity of the original piece.