Felisha Ledesma, Virgin Blood’s mastermind and sole member, roots her compositions in the most-used adjectival synth sounds ever – murky, squiggly, vapory, minimal, astral. OK, maybe they’re not the most used adjectives (some are, I assure you), but they’re apropos to Ledesma’s work as Virgin Blood. The Portland, Oregon, native’s Cupidity cassette for Lava Church is awash in nostalgia, and plunks itself just nicely down in the chillwave and hypnogogic pop genres, exuding a gentleness and a warmth while being equally distant. It’s like looking at an old photograph from a revered era of someone you don’t know. Actually, it’s probably more specifically like looking at the sample photo in a rustic Pottery Barn frame and wishing that person was you, and so you buy the frame with no intention of replacing the sample picture and weep on your way home… You sentimental old sadsack. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Ledesma has this whole Julee Cruise/Twin Peaks thing going on at points, and considering that David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti pretty much defined an entire genre with their soundtrack work together, it’s not a bad thing to emulate. Leadoff track “Being/Time” has that whole Roadhouse vibe where the band is on stage with Cruise but there’s not much more than the drone of the synth and Cruise’s gentle coo, and Virgin Blood knocks this moment out of the park. The song is not an emulation, definitely, but as homage it’s perfect – it’s out of time and place, as is instrumental follow-up “Verismo,” which utilizes samples to freeze time and root the listener in a moment that repeats on a loop.
It’s not all young longing though – I think some of this release could be construed as paeans to BOB, as he crouches frighteningly behind Laura Palmer’s bed in obvious sight and ready to menace all who can actually see him. “Imagination/Taste” devolves by its end into something more ominous and dissonant, but it’s “Dream Revisited” that functions as a trip through the barely (un)conscious, highlighting the grotesque misrepresentations of reality you’re bound to witness halfway in and halfway out of sleep. Luckily we’re able to cleanse our palate with “Wavelength,” its beautiful, poetic tones rippling within and over one another, fighting for the title of “most beatific,” as if there’s such a prize. (There will be, if I have anything to say about it. Virgin Blood’s tones reach “beatific” territory on a seemingly regular basis here.) “Wavelength” arrives, already radiant, and blissfully fades after exactly four minutes. I want it back.
I’m not going to suggest that Virgin Blood has any interest in Twin Peaks – maybe Ledesma does – it’s just something I happened to hear in it. And that’s OK – for the uninitiated, it’s helpful to have some point of reference, and for a dude who writes a music column, it’s helpful to have a hook. Surely I can be forgiven. Maybe not so much for baiting sappy nostalgia-hounds in their pursuit of feelings via retail therapy, but hey, I calls ’em like I sees ’em. Fortunately, for Virgin Blood, there’s nothing cloying about Cupidity, nor is there any sense of mass production – it was originally released in a limited cassette run, which has now sold out, for goodness’ sake. It’s real, actual, acceptable emotional stimulation, and, for Felisha Ledesma, it’s a perfect outlet. Thanks for sharing. I promise this is well worth the time.
RIYL: Julee Cruise, Grouper, Sleep ∞ Over