Polar Seas Recordings • 2021

anthéne’s Brad Deschamps creates a quiet and moving ambient work that can best be described as “blanketesque.”

No matter where you live in Canada, if it’s winter, there’s probably somewhere colder than where you currently are. Relative to most of the rest of the country, Toronto’s winter temperatures would be considered fairly mild. And yet the reaction to cold wintry nights is probably the same just about anywhere: the heightened desire to stay inside and keep warm. Toronto’s Brad Deschamps, who performs as anthéne, seems to have figured out exactly how to capture that exact feeling.

held is one of several albums Deschamps released in 2021, this one showing up mid-December, just in time for the longest nights of the year. Many of anthéne’s albums include similar features: tape loops, field recordings, and emotionally resonant guitar and synth drones. On held, Deschamps broadens the sonic palettes of his work by incorporating the cello of Simon McCorry and the lush voice of Clara Engel on several tracks. Their added layers enhance the ambiance already developed through deceptively simple loops and patterns. 

Deschamps plays most instruments on the album, and at times it’s unclear which he’s playing when; through heavy reverb and manipulation, he focuses more on creating visceral and resonant soundscapes. Its eight tracks are carefully sequenced, a picture book painted with sound. Closing track “beyond the clouds” is a highlight, with the combination of Engel’s solemn humming, McCorry’s cello, mellow drones, and the sound of moving water, solidifying the feeling of warmth that anthéne has worked towards across the entire album.

Though the cover features a sparse black-and-white photo of a person kayaking, held feels like a wintry blanket, its various elements are woven together to keep out the cold. anthéne creates a sort of ambient music that demands attention, with subtle surprises appearing as songs develop.  It’s the perfect soundtrack for that late-night beverage as you watch the snow falling outside, not caring whether it’s colder somewhere else.

Tarik Robinson