Felicia Atkinson injects a very real, fiery danger inside her music under the name of Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier. Atkinson herself has described her music as ‘abstract architectures’, and A Guide To The Sun is a near perfect representation of her well constructed, cycling layers of monstrous drone and experimental improvisation.
Only a couple of years ago, NASA warned of a potentially life-altering increase in solar flare activity, resulting in a fierce solar storm sometime in 2013. Electronic devices and power grids could all potentially black out as a result of the high doses of radiation and magnetic energy caused by the rare storm and its immense volcanic eruption. Almost all life on Earth surrenders under the influence of the star. There is no escape from the sun’s supremacy.
Our sun will never go nova, but, like everything, it will lose its life. Only a burnt out ember of itself will remain, bleakly shining over a devastated arm of the Galaxy. Earth’s own lifespan is tightly fastened to the red orb, but seeing as how both Earth and Sun are around 4.5 billion years old, just over half of the sun’s life is still to burn. Atkinson’s drones show no let up in their radiant warmth either, so any warning of an imminent implosion remains firmly a distant threat. As the sun loses energy, it sprays out the particles and minerals needed for new life; even after death, our sun may still be found in other living stars. For now, the eerie light that reaches us from the sphere arrives around eight minutes late, and the experiences of the light during that time remain a mystery. There’s something foreboding lurking inside these drones, like the unknown black of space revolving all around us, with only a singular, darkly lit orange spectacle to light the way.
The music is a warning of the sun’s potency. Radiant and mystical, the solar storms unleash an uncontrolled soundscape of reverberating ash. The dark, fear inducing drone of ‘Painted Figures’ brings to life these surging flares, nearing ever closer to our prone position on Earth and licking at the exosphere with her fiery tongue. A lighter atmosphere eventually scorches the drone, setting it on fire in a spectacularly red-hot, violent light. Changing minimally, yet continuously, dreamy atmospheres lay on top of the darker drone, which has the effect of splicing the music into equal signals of repetitive hypnosis and lurking fear. Jetting out in erupting, unstable rays of light, her improvised endeavours create a magnificent flame of ambience. They are lucid enough, and different enough, to distinguish themselves apart from other releases; these are powerful drones, distant in origin and yet drawing close enough to feel the burn.
Atkinson’s improvisations carry their own danger, but this is what makes the music exciting. Her droning, lost loops may change course in the middle, only to eventually find their way back to base. In “Paper Fold”, a resonating, organ deep drone shifts focus into an experimental piece, radiating a healthy mist of light as seen on Earth. Her improvisations take full control, but it is never forced or rushed; the experimental transition in the music pulls itself in the direction it so desires. Despite the unpredictable vibrations in the air, the music almost soothes. This demonstrates perfectly both the sun’s intensity and her loving gift of light, as caregiver and life supporter. And yet she still possesses the power to burn if we aren’t too careful.
An aura of warm drone and harmonic, chiming electronics fill the air, but it is the coda, “Following The Mississipi River”, that emits the strongest flares. Over 13 minutes, a quivering, oscillating drone circles a solid harmony. This is as close to a smooth, calming harmony as we are allowed in the presence of unsteady drone; a sense of acceptance in the face of our destiny. A deeper current rides the waves underneath sedately, and even though the flares approach closer and closer, the music still feels eerie and slightly alien.
The sun supports us, and yet it is far from amicable; it’s a highly charged, dangerous sphere of stunning sunspots and colossal twisters of plasma, creating a solar architecture of astonishing power, much like Atkinson’s own, immense musical structures. It’s a beautiful realignment that reaffirms the sheer intensity and dominating influence the star has over our lives. It may caress the skin, but it is also capable of burning and blinding. As Atkinson’s unsteady drones progress, we wait to see which choice will be made. Creator. Destroyer. Deity. If the sun, and the drones, do burn out, we must face the fatal consequences. Discovery awaits. (James Catchpole)