Ilyas Ahmed and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma “You Can See Your Own Way Out”

Over the last 15-20 years, both Ilyas Ahmed and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma have been fixtures in my listening habits. Each has an unimpeachable body of work, and while they swim in adjacent musical oceans, they’ve always been off in their own currents. Coming together for You Can See Your Own Way Out (and the excellent Torch Songs EP before this), they create sonic meditations on the decisions we make and how our divergent paths still need to intersect lest we float aimlessly away.

Quiet rhythms beckon like a sea of promise beneath the languid guitar leads and pastoral synths of “Mr. Sophistication.” Ahmed’s barely audible vocals are a siren song behind a veil, obscured from view, but impossible to ignore. Skeletal arrangements permeate You Can See Your Own Way Out, unfinished in the sense that a resolution isn’t the goal, the journey is the ultimate truth. Dusty field recordings cake “Dark From Daybreak” with a timelessness while the rising synth leads whisper a reminder over ethereal pads to hold onto these moments before they’re lost to the fire. 

Ruminations on the ephemeral nature of being and the impermanence of tomorrow are woven throughout You Can See Your Own Way Out. It’s a deep reflection on broken ties that allow us to drift, and the desire, whether conscious or not, to keep connections breathing. Bright, resonant guitars sing, arms outstretched on the vulnerable “City Walls.” Chord changes shifting the focus from distant observations to action as that need for connection becomes overwhelming. It’s a deceptively hopeful song undone by the washed out thrum of album closer, “Shining Sea.” 

You Can See Your Own Way Out offers no answers and no real guidance, it simply exists as a companion for pondering where we want to go next and, lost in these gauzy vignettes, finding a truth we can live with. As birdsong gets warped and twisted through tape manipulation in the languorous greyscale of “White Sands,” the truth is that even if most of the outcomes are unsatisfying, we can still find fulfillment in our wandering.

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