Saturday Moon





Chantal ACDA






Saturday Moon
Conflict of Minds
The Letter
Back against the wall
Time Frames



At the beginning of 2000, I stood on the same stage in San Sebastian as Chantal Acda and her band Sleeping Dog. That night in Spain, I hear them sing and play for the first time. Chantal’s performance took my breath away. I thought of Sandy Denny, Cat Power, Van Morrison, and every voice that ever brought tears to my eyes and shone a light. So special, so undisguised she was, a truly exceptional talent, and the years that followed would only make her talents shine even brighter.

Eventually, Chantal, drummer Eric Thielemans and I came together to form a trio we called Distance, Light & Sky. If we had to assign one of these words to a band member, “Sky” would probably be the appropriate choice for Chantal. No place in the world is more dear to her than Iceland, with its endless horizons wide open to the sky. Sometimes those places, and the heartfelt awe for them, resonate in Chantal’s music. There’s a hard-earned confidence in her songs. Even in the saddest of them, she doesn’t let us give up. She motivates us to keep searching until we find our home – no matter how remote. At the edge of what we know.

Chantal’s previous solo albums were both produced by two luminaries of so-called “neoclassical” music (Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick, respectively). Compared to these immaculate siblings, “Saturday Moon” is a wolf child – and all the stronger for that very reason. Now all caution is thrown overboard and trust in the instinct: Without shyness to get their hands dirty, it goes courageously to the point. Talking about the album, Chantal left me in no doubt that this new tone was no less intentional than the way to get there: she made the decision to produce the album herself to protect the clarity and freedom of her vision.

“When I started, I had a very clear and simple, though in some ways still very structured, idea: a microphone and just me in the room. That was it. Exclusively simple 4-minute songs for a change. But then I felt increasingly alone. I looked for the exchange with people who inspire me musically. Without anyone producing or stopping me. This feeling of letting go was great. In doing so, I celebrated a part of me that is rather chaotic, unrational and impulsive. And with that, I guess a part of me that I’ve been neglecting musically.”

Right from the opener and title track “Saturday Moon,” the music sounds liberated, brimming with ideas from the first note. Eric Thieleman’s smooth drum groove underpins guitarist Rodriguez Vangama’s ornamental soukous figures, a gentle bed for the singer’s sky-high onomatopoeias in the chorus. It’s an unorthodox mix that retains a coherent elegance thanks to Chantal’s commanding songwriting, arrangement and vocal presence.

The album surprises over its entire length, it always offers new twists and counters expectations. Be it through unexpected sounds like the guitarsynth of Low‘s Alan Sparhawk in “Disappear,” a song that ends in the roar of an electric tornado and whose background vocals are taxed by Alan’s band partner Mimi. Or by the atmospheric playing of Bill Frisell, who engages in a filigree dialogue on two songs at once, while the six-string bass of Shahzad Ismaily (Tom Waits, Marc Ribot, among others) restlessly breaks through the darkness of “Conflict of Minds.”

A total of eighteen musicians* can be heard on the album. Strings, winds, double bass and piano also flow into this kaleidoscopic mesh in which the human and the all-too-human balance each other out. Clarity and randomness. Distress and exhilaration. Loss and awakening. The personal and the communal.

Across the variety of sonic shape-shifts and emotional themes on “Saturday Moon,” Chantal may have finally found her true musical home. One that includes many sympathetic collaborators, but that is not constrained by other people’s agendas and expectations. To me, she put it this way:

“With my previous records, I still had the idea that they had to provide a stylistic classification. I always had the feeling of sitting between the chairs. But with each new record I thought, ‘Maybe it fits now?’ But this time I didn’t want to fit in anywhere, and that opened up so many possibilities. The sky is the limit, because I just don’t fit into any pigeonhole.”

She paused for a moment, then continued:

“That record taught me things about myself that I wasn’t fully aware of, and I think one thing then came to another in “Lockdown.” My desire to work with other people was a real need for a form of musical contact, which I then really celebrated – something that goes even much deeper than a conversation with my close friends.I’ve always collaborated a lot with others.It’s always been there, but I never really realized why I was seeking out certain musicians to do something together.Now I know.”

In the song “Back Against The Wall” the narrator contemplates a relationship (or a world?) in which reliable signs and references no longer exist.

»Disappearing thoughts – How did we get lost? – Over ages in time we took these steps – To think that we progressed.«

But she doesn’t bow to impermanence. She creates small, everyday rituals to calm the doubts and fears.

»Touch the wooded skin – Feel the warmth within – That I needed the most to stay calm – And I supposed less lost.«

“Back Against The Wall” is a song for staying in the moment, and “Saturday Moon” is full of such gems.

They are hope-seekers. Appeals to our better selves. Brave steps into a bleak future.

Warm wooded skins – for us: to touch and to hold on to.

Chris Eckman, Ljubljana, January 2021, in translation by Stephan Glietsch


Posted on

28. August 2023