Desert Television is the debut album from La Nuit, a brand-new collaboration featuring French musician Felicia Atkinson and Oregon-based musician Peter Broderick. The listener will no doubt already be familiar with the well-known and well-respected music of both individuals, but when combined, Desert Television is unlike anything the two of them have previously put out. Felicia’s closed vocals purr against the sound of a cello as experimental frequencies gently pulsate and loiter. There’s the sunshine of the West Coast, filtering into the music from up above. At first, delays rock the waters of the Pacific, her voice a lone raft among the waves. The sound echoes back in on itself, buffeted suddenly and without the use of brakes, coming to a hard stop as it smacks against the side of the spoken word. In reality, Felicia uses both spoken word and song, and it falls under the larger umbrella of experimental song-craft. Alternating between French and English, the syllables carry a mystery all of their own making.
Inner thoughts are voiced aloud on ‘Feu Pale’. Electronics accelerate sharply as they burn down the road. Red, scribbled rocks and jagged canyons look like NASA-relayed photographs of the surface of Mars, but these roads lead home. Images come to fruition, and they eventually come into a soft focus. Described as ‘the only remaining episode of a lost TV show’, Desert Television glints as the light hovers over the Pacific. The music itself is generally a little more inland. It’s a place where little dusty roads point to wider highways; the quieter ambient roads intersect with the heavily populated traffic of electronic music’s freeways. ‘Blind Sights of the Diamond’ returns to the coast as it sinks to deeper, underwater reefs. The voice is left submerged, buried in a pool of echoes. Mermaids swim. Notes rise to the surface, like bubbles of lost oxygen. The tones are deeper and pretty, but they’re opaque and not as easy to distinguish as they once were. A sun-dappled guitar plays out its repeated melody; a hazy sound borders on the dusty. Felicia’s words stop the music from drying up. The dull thump of the drum makes for a soft, mesmeric rhythm. Muted cymbals splash casually; you can really feel the American influence here.
La Nuit is an interesting collaboration; it is a new environment for both of them – a new continent – and they both want to explore it in their own time. The music’s unhurried, and the vocals are left to hang. Posing questions and ruminating on sequences of thoughts, Felicia’s voice gives a great warmth and meaning to the underlying rhythms and melodies. Coda ‘The Sun Is Folded In Eight’ has more of a traditional song structure, but the guitar melts reality. The dry notes of the guitar are parched as they wander around the desert. Repetitive waves roll over the vocals, the lyrics recurring echoes in the mind. The prints in the sand eventually wash away and vanish. Still the vocals drive through the music, like a fast car on a long drive to nowhere. Sometimes, in life as in music, you don’t always need a specific direction, an A to B. You need the Blue Path. You just do it for the fun of it; it’s the thrill and pleasure of the drive.