Album Review: Anika Kildegaard & Jean-Francois Charles – Missa brevis Abbaye de Thélème
Missa brevis Abbaye de Thélème is a one of a kind album that aligns with the lineage of musical masses, tracing back to Guillaume de Machaut, Gabriel Fauré, and Pierre Henry. However, within its textures, rhythms and melodies, it resonates with a myriad of musical genres close to composer Jean-Francois Charles's heart. Listeners can discern the echoes of "Pink Floyd, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Albert Ayler, Dr. Dre, Eminem, the French vocalist Mylène Farmer, and even Lady Gaga", as quoted by the artist. But this list is just a tip of the iceberg. Anika Kildegaard's powerful voice brings a unique touch to this kaleidoscope of sounds and contexts.

The album opens with Introitus that weaves together a motley soundscape from noises, echoes and organic and electronic textures. Some of them sound familiar and some otherworldly and borderline eerie. The track works as a sort of pill you have to take in to enter the meditative state that prepares you for the sonic journey of Missa brevis Abbaye de Thélème.

Kyrie keeps the noisy textures, but adds Anika's beautiful vocals, a stumbling rhythm and surprisingly some energetic rapping. The composition is long and has many unexpected twists and turns.

After this emotional rollercoaster Gloria provides a moment of peace and pure beauty. Gentle acoustic guitar, comforting mallet melodies and intricate drumming set a pastoral and almost lulling mood, providing a perfect arrangement for Marceline Desbordes-Valmore's classic poem.

Credo is all sunshine and warmth. It is adorned by funky guitars, festive brass and a groovy bass line, creating a joyful and celebratory atmosphere.

Offertorium brings us back to the abrasiveness of the album's intro. Its epic cinematic drums in the intro dissolve into a world of ghostly resonant wails and dissonant scraping noises that slowly fade away. The composition ends with a humming noise that works as a sort of palate cleanser.

Sanctus also features epic drums, now playing a marching pattern. Anika's vocals here sound more detached than on the other tracks. The composition brings together Arthur Rimbaud and liturgical music.

Benedictus is interesting for its swampy electronic textures and bird-like noises laying a soundbed for vocals ranging from peaceful to emotional as well as a passionate recitative.

Agnus Dei adds new colours to the palette. The four-to-the-floor rhythm introduces a tasteful techno influence that, together with the church chants, brings to mind Lady Gaga that the artists cite as an influence.
Ite, missa est is rich and multi-layered. The track's composition and mood reminded us of Alice Coltrane's spiritual compositions. The track slowly peels off these sound layers, much like Offertorium, but slower and in a more straightforward way.

The album raises a lot of questions, protesting "against bigotry and profiteers of all kinds", but does it in a deep yet subtle way, reaching for inspiration and creative tools from various contexts and marrying liturgical music, avant-garde, classic literature, experimental electronica and even pop. It's a unique piece of work that occupies its own sonic niche.