I’ve always loved Jefre Cantu-Ledesma at his most relentlessly romantic. From “Faceless Kiss” to “Devotion” to “Songs of Forgiveness”, he’s recently been honing his craft in a way that I find far more interesting than like-minded artists who also released great noisy ambient records in the mid-2000s (e.g. Fennesz, Tim Hecker, Belong). And while Cantu-Ledesma doesn’t need to use feedback to make gorgeous soundscapes, I’ve always admired his use of noise as a tool to capture infatuation, nostalgia, and pain—he’s making music that’s essentially the closest thing we have to a modern-day Loveless. Thankfully, A Year with 13 Moons continues that trend and also happens to be one of his strongest works to date.
13 Moons takes its title from a Fassbinder film that was created in response to the director’s lover committing suicide. The film spans only two days but opens and closes with dates that are a month apart, reflecting the beginning and end of the film’s production work. It’s an unmistakable injection of the personal, and Cantu-Ledesma does the same here. If the music isn’t enough to convey that, then mentions of specific times (“The Last Time I Saw Your Face”, “Early Autumn”, “At the End of Spring”), locations (“Agate Beach”, “Along The Isar”, “Görlitzer Park”) and the hyperspecific “A Portrait of You at Nico’s Grave, Grunewald, Berlin (for Bill. K)” make it all the more evident. In a press release, Cantu-Ledesma states that he was also influenced by the works of Alain Resnais, Chantal Akerman, and Chris Marker. That influence is clear—the use of numerous flashbacks in Hiroshima mon amour, the reading of letters over long takes of New York in News from Home, the use of still photography-as-narrative in La Jetée—it all points to the use of memory in art as a way to allow the audience to reflect upon similar moments in their own life. There’s a similar methodology at play here too. “The Last Time I Saw Your Face” and “Love After Love”, the first two tracks on the album, take up a third of the runtime and function as establishing shots. The following fourteen tracks, all of which are under three minutes, act as miniature time capsules that add color to the emotional canvas that is 13 Moons. It’s as exhilarating as it is sincere, and Cantu-Ledesma succeeds in making an album that manages to feel personal to both him and us as listeners.