Image language | Fork

Even the smallest sound is overflowing with information. Birdsong can give clues to when and where it was recorded. the grain of someone’s voice can reveal their emotional state. The quieter it is, the deeper we listen. French musician and writer Félicia Atkinson harnesses and subverts this process of interpreting our perceptions, creating surreal soundscapes that sit right next to the ear but stretch out to a distant horizon. His music resists the brain’s desire for spatial continuity and shatters its expectations of a unified perspective, juxtaposing whispers, streaks of atmospheric noise, and digitally rendered instruments that float through the auditory field in eerie ways.

“Music is about mystery and reconciliation,” Atkinson said in a recent interview. “Music can turn things into a kind of code. If you take language, you can find that in poetry – the idea that sometimes meaning just isn’t enough. You have to step back and look beyond the sense of being in experience.” Atkinson’s work often references a complex web of concepts, stories and philosophies, but the most satisfying way to listen is to drop any preconceptions and engage with them second per second, integrating it as a particularly lively landscape or dream.

This particular immediacy is a defining characteristic of Atkinson’s design. Image language. The music unfolds slowly, drifting from point to point, but it never quite settles into a state of tranquility. Despite superficial similarities to the kind of ambient music spoon-fed to the sidekicks of wellness programs and relaxing playlists, there are frequent wrinkles that resist easy listening: her recorded voice so close it impinges on our sense of personal space; static tension shimmers; irregular pulse coming and going. For every plaintive melody there’s a hidden detail, like a field recording that only reveals itself upon close inspection, or a camouflaged synth sound lurking deep in the mix. Presented with extreme intimacy, the disturbing elements of Image language are as absorbing as its pastoral expanse. Disturbing details make the texture of sound tangible.

Much of Atkinson’s music revolves around slow, deliberate passages of spoken text recorded at extremely close range, where the tone of his voice is caught in a state between urgency and detachment. It remains a major element of Image language, but it completes it with an increasingly diversified instrumentation. Floating organ drones swaddle his vocals on the title track, and on the opener “La Brume,” a reverb-soaked saxophone straight out of Angelo Badalamenti soundtracks emerges from a layer of drifting synthesizer. (Like Badalamenti, Atkinson is also obsessed with creating the impression of something hidden just below the surface of her music.)” where a single note opens with the quivering dissonance of a tenaciously held semitone .

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