Felicia Atkinson - The Flower And The Vessel 2xLP
Label: Shelter Press
French poet and ASMR auteur Félicia Atkinson has frequently fixated on the elusive interwoven relationship between microcosms and macrocosms – how even the quietest creative act ripples outward, a whisper with no fixed meaning. The Flower And The Vessel pursues this notion in a more literal fashion, as it was crafted while pregnant on tour. She describes it as "a record not about being pregnant but a record made with pregnancy." Each day and night, finding herself far from home, she asked herself "What am I doing here? How can I connect myself to the world?" The answer gradually revealed itself: "With small gestures: recording my voice, recording birds, a simple melody." In truth there is nothing simple about The Flower And The Vessel. The album's 11 songs span whispering textures, opaque moods, and surreal spoken word, leading the listener through a mirrored hall of beguiling mirages. Atkinson cites a trio of French classical compositions from her childhood as formative influences: Ravel's L'enfant Et Les Sortilèges, Debussy's La Mer, and Satie's Gymnopédies. There's certainly a shade of classicism woven within these tracks; melancholic piano motifs repeat then retreat into a radiant frost of shivering frequencies; processed voices recite cut-up poems and interviews over delay-refracted Rhodes and Wurlitzer; iPad gamelan patterns flutter from meditative to melancholic and back again, offset by pointillist patches of delicate software synesthesia. Much of Atkinson's discography is shaped by speech and the lyricism of language, but The Flower And The Vessel ventures further into silence. Field recordings from Tasmania and the Mojave Desert murmur beneath hushed reverberations of gong, vibraphone, and marimba, softly processed into an elegant emptiness, alternately eerie and serene. Her mode of minimalism has long been one of reduction, riddles, and curation, but here Atkinson's synergy feels close to apotheosis, emotive but ambivalent, a ceremony of expectation and invisible forces. The 19-minute closing collaboration with SUNN O))) guitarist Stephen O'Malley, "Des Pierres," is one of the album's few pieces tracked in a proper studio, but it broods and burns with the same subliminal majesty as the rest of The Flower And The Vessel: an ember in amber, seeds planted in shifting sands.