Creating sounds based in both patient ambient exploration, experimental clatter, and the textural expressiveness of shoegaze, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma developed a distinctive voice for his instrumental sounds. Along with frequent collaborations, his solo albums encompassed a wide range of styles, from the distorted ambient haze of his 2010 debut Love Is a Wave to the slowed-down beats and tape experiments of 2015's A Year with 13 Moons. Born and raised in Texas, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma delved into abstract music around the same time he was studying sculpture and visual arts in San Francisco in the mid-'90s. Developing an ambient approach to the spacy indie rock and slowcore of the time, Cantu-Ledesma co-founded the highly influential instrumental act Tarentel, worked with experimental rock trio the Alps, and ran the well-respected drone/ambient label Root Strata. Prolifically collaborative, Cantu-Ledesma worked with Grouper's Liz Harris in a duo called Raum, as well as with filmmaker Paul Clipson and in Alexis Georgopoulos' ARP project. For a short time he worked solo under the name Colophon, and released music under his own name. A more official solo debut came out in 2010 with the beautifully damaged shoegaze tones of Love Is a Stream, released on Type Records. Some copies of the record included the companion EP Love Is a Dream, featuring collaborations between Cantu-Ledesma and Type founder John Twells' Xela project. Following several years' worth of limited cassette and vinyl releases, a proper follow-up came in 2015 with A Year with 13 Moons. Named after a Fassbinder film, the collection of dreamy guitar textures, modular synth noise, and distant drum-machine rhythms was put together during a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. The album was released early that year on Mexican Summer. In 2016, Shelter Press released Comme un Seul Narcisse, a collaborative LP by Cantu-Ledesma and Félicia Atkinson (aka Je Suis le Petit Chevalier), and Geographic North released Cantu-Ledesma's solo cassette In Summer. Also that year, the Czech label Pre-Echo issued vinyl editions of Songs of Remembrance and Songs of Forgiveness, two previously cassette-only albums from 2014. In 2017, he returned to Mexican Summer with On the Echoing Green, a clearer, more accessible album than his previous efforts. 2019 marked another step away from well-traveled territory with the more subdued, experimental, and chamber instrumentation of Tracing Back the Radiance. ~ Fred Thomas
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Miscellaneous - Released November 1, 2010 | Type
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's various group and collaborative projects from Tarentel onward would seem to leave little time for a solo career, but it might not be surprising he's found space for one. On 2010's Love Is a Stream, the overexposed, pink-tinged cover is a perfect signal for the music that follows: it's bliss-out central from the first note, with "Stained Glass Body" sounding almost exactly like a combination of My Bloody Valentine at its most serenely exultant, and a slightly calmer version of Lovesliescrushing's sonic violence. If anything, it could almost be a collage of the shorter instrumental pieces from both albums, only with some of them turned into even longer compositions along the way. This tone continues in a general vein throughout Love Is a Stream, which is almost a tribute to a future that at once came true and didn't at the same time, as some of the more unexpected possibilities and directions got formalized over time, as they steered away from song structures in favor of textures. Occasional guest vocals crop up here and there from compatriots like Xela and En's Maxwell Croy, but Love Is a Stream is an instrumental exploration otherwise. Having a piece be simply roaring feedback and serene tones on songs like "Loving Love" (could any title be more tautological?) and "River Like Spine" reinforces the album's title. When the occasional guest vocals do stand out a bit more, they're still almost completely lost in the wash: "Where You End & I Begin" has only the most distant of moments where you can sense the singing, while a slow series of feedback loops and swirls dominate the mix. "Body Within Body" and "White Dwarf Butterfly," the latter with its treble-pitched ultrashimmer in particular, are further standouts on an excellent album that's a half look back and a half new way of looking at where things could go next. ~ Ned Raggett
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