Boomkat Product Review:
Félicia Atkinson’s new album 'Image Language’ is a literate, environmental sprawl that dips fourth-world MIDI oddness into silvery pools of cinematic intrigue, juxtaposing dislocated poetry with disorienting sci-fi electronix for a set of brittle and unique sounds that belong alongside works by Robert Ashley, Christina Vantzou, David Toop and Colleen.
‘Image Language’ was written between La Becque in Switzerland, on the banks of Leman Lake, and at home on the coast of Normandy, and finds Atkinson keen to capture the disorientation of moving between places, and its effect on the creative process. Inspired by the concept of the "home studio” (now a reality for the majority of artists but in the past more of a prescribed choice for outsiders such as Agnes Martin and Georgia O’Keefe), Atkinson approached the record as if she were building a house, thinking of the tracks as separate rooms, each with their own discrete functions.
Opening track 'La Brume' harks back to Jon Hassell's genre-defining Editions EG material, with its muted horn and slowcore Bohren-esque electric piano, acoustic and electronic elements seeping into one another without clear definition. Atkinson is a gifted world-builder who composes like a novelist - dialling back the scope and increasing the emotional resonance. She conjures a mist of ghostly claustrophobia that reminds us of Andrei Tarkovsky's terrifying swan-song "The Sacrifice", a film that mostly takes place between four walls on the eve of the apocalypse.
On 'The Lake Is Speaking', Atkinson alternates between French and English narration, enhancing the qualities of each language and splitting the words into curved syllables. Slowing her voice to an inhuman groan and duetting with her disembodied self, she speaks over treated piano, reclining into Satie's furniture music concept, allowing her world to breathe around the careful instrumentation.
The landscape descends to moonlight on 'Les Dunes', abstracting her sounds and covering everything in a sheet of white noise. It's here that the album's trans-dimensional mood bellows loudest, as finely-tweaked synthesisers dance like fireflies around the room. On 'Becoming a Stone', Atkinson's voice is threaded through orchestral simulations, while 'Pieces of Sylvia’ finds Atkinson's fantasy orchestra at its most prominent as she speaks fragments of Plath, scattering words around the house.
'Image Language’ is not designed as an easy listen; it demands attention and focus, conveying complex feelings of familiarity, alienation, re-discovery. It feels like the culmination of a personal and creative arc - a litany of ideas and experiments realised over the last few years - that here arrive at a kind of creative apex. It’s an album riddled with puzzles, yours to untangle over time.