Thea Ballard

  • music February 24, 2020

    Ambient Conditions

    TUCKED BETWEEN the few discrete layers of indeterminate guitar phrases that make up “It’s Late,” the fifth track on Santa Fe–based musician Theodore Cale Schafer’s latest album, Patience (2019), is a nonmusical rustling, like a phone recording of someone walking outside: boots on gravel or dry leaves, keys clanking, some laughter. These details stand out for the degree to which they’re effective, but not useful; of a place, but not a place the listener quite has access to; personal and intimate, but without the attendant narrative dramas.

    Schafer has a dry way of arranging sounds. In his music,

  • music July 16, 2019

    Open Secrets

    I FIND IT USEFUL to think of Félicia Atkinson’s music—soaked through as it is with traces of places she has been and imagined—as a series of landscapes. This is an approach that’s more or less in line with how one might listen to most ambient music, which is what Atkinson’s music sort of is. While it’s not difficult to be absorbed, transported by the elegant melodic terrain the French artist-composer-poet constructs from a mix of analog and computer-generated sounds (piano, Wurlitzer, a digital gamelan), the trail through these spaces can be elusive. Should we let Atkinson’s voice, an interjection