If there is a state of sonic lucid dream, Félicia Atkinson could serve as a guide to its realms. Electronic pioneers like Delia Derbyshire might have opened that door, but Atkinson’s carefully crafted and deeply immersive minimal soundscapes, woven through ASMR spoken word snippets, invite you to step further in. Contrary to being detached from reality, this ambitious recording is a triumph in synthesis and interconnectivity, honoring its title. A sense of otherworldly is paired with the familiar, the macabre with the sensual. Dreams and reality go fluidly and fittingly together, as contemporary midi textures with historical Buchla or Serge accents.
Atkinson recorded Hand In Hand at home in Brittany and at EMS Studio in Stockholm. Her readings of desert and architectural magazines, botanical guides and sci-fi novels flow seamlessly into the album, along with her other contemporary artistic practices.
Most immediately influenced by Derbyshire’s aesthetics, especially The Dreams, Hand In Hand operates in the same headspace of spoken word and eerie sound effects. Atkinson’s prolific body of work follows the dadaist, text-based collage of A Readymade Ceremony (2015), but here she crafts an even more nuanced and warped sonic riddle. The album is minimal, but layered: rich in textural subtleties and infrasonic frequencies that recalibrate the ears. Echoing, looping glitches loom over the vast spaces and silences; fragmented beats and chords drenched in oceans of reverb expand slowly and carefully around the axis of the narrator’s hushed voice. This voice is a unifying force, sounding like the reading of poetry to aliens or of the contents of a time capsule to future generations.
Hers is a peculiar brand of homemade, organic avant-garde, not excluding the mundane and intimate, everyday self from her art, but elevating it and using it as a portal, making the subconscious and the abstract approachable. It allows for the recipients to claim that inner space for themselves too, unearthing primal memories, like one’s first remembered dream. Atkinson, like the benevolent gatekeeper between the outer and inner, invites us on a journey through the maze of the inner ear to freely peak into the mysterious laboratory of the mind. The striking sound imagery of the wordless “Monstera Delicosa“, full of horror and suspense, sounds like a heavy creaking door opening into what is unknown, but not unknowable. Atkinson’s linguistic shamanism, simultaneously personal and impersonal, reaches the abstract, the pre-lingual, the mystical not by denying the language, but by using it as a transcendent tool.
An attempt to translate house music into domestic (s)pace,“Adaptation Assez Facile“ sounds like a heavily deconstructed echo of Mathew Herbert’s idea of joining micro-house vibes with domestic sounds (Around The House), crafted from cut-ups of minimal beats alongside readings of a house plant manual and a novel in progress.
The shape of the letter A is a conceptual frame for the 10-minute sonic pyramid “A House, A dance, A Poem“, signaling the beginning of a new life cycle: the first letter of the Roman alphabet, A-form house, built of spoken words denoting house parts. The yoga asana of the triangle is featured on the cover as symbolizing the feminine sex. The hushed delivery of her intimate, multi-layered spoken word is almost symptomatic of a deeply ingrained habit to hide our multi-dimensional inner worlds under a facade of utilitarian life. The narrator desires a receptive ear, like that of a lover, in which to whisper secret, sweet somethings, but knows that secrets are no longer allowed to remain hidden. Jenny Hval proclaimed, “Apocallypse, girl!”, and if we take apocalypse in the sense of being simply a revelation of the hidden, “A as apocalypse” in Atkinson’s triangular concept could be read as the imperative for women no longer remaining a hidden sex, to truly mark for a new beginning.
The atmosphere of reflective anticipation is the main sonic theme, with the last track “No Fear But Anticipation“ serving as a manifesto. As she recites: “The most important element for desire is positive anticipation“, her masterful use of silence crafts this delicate soundscape of desire through a reflective lens. Its other side, anxiety, always looms in the background as a poignant reminder of the inevitable loss. We cannot preserve the fleeting stream of feelings and impressions, and all we are left with are ghostly echoes that loop and shapeshift in our minds until they vanish. As the river of life flows, the mind’s struggle to admit defeat to time gives birth to musical meditation on the ephemeral, from a removed focal point. Her intermediary, acute, almost synaesthetic perception fixates the fleeting moment and self in the state of fluxus. Reflection is the afterlife of feelings, and a way to transform mere existence into experience, a readymade object into a work of art: as the philosopher of art Arthur C. Danto called it, the transfiguration of the commonplace. The last, self-conscious phase in Western art signals self-negation through conceptualization and reduction to philosophical statement. Atkinson, in the manner of a hauntologist, explores that negative space and what lies beyond: a ghostly shell, an echo of art’s afterlife, but also a seed of a new beginning by returning into language, into the body, not completely erasing, but loosening the art’s boundary with life, letting one inform the other freely. (Danijela Bočev)