Sound Awakener is the instrumental solo project of Nhung Nguyen from Hanoi, Vietnam. She began learning the piano back in 2002 and since 2007 has been developing her own personal composition and improvisation techniques. At the end of November, she put out a short EP titled, hidden, which from the beginning, feels much darker and experimental than her previous album, Five Chapters. Most of her work is incredibly experimental, noisy and jagged and hidden follows this trend in true experimental fashion, but to get a true understanding of this music, you have to give it a deep and patient listen.
hidden is a lot more difficult than Five Chapters to get into but that’s mostly owing to the concept behind it: ‘The EP focus largely and extensively on using intended, “unwanted” and “disturbing” elements, which is easily misunderstood as production flaws, especially clicks, buzzing/hiss and distortion.’ Whilst I do think that this is an admirable concept, I personally find it incredibly difficult to listen to for long periods of time.
The ferocious first track, around, is this harsh rampage of industrial sounds becoming more and more distorted, until it eventually fades away into this soft(er) soundscape. Even when the calmer moments come, they’re still relentless in their flat and still, surprisingly hard-hitting sounds – it fails to give you a break.
Sound Awakener’s title track on this album, hidden, feels like the soundtrack to a very strange day, where you feel permanently disconnected from the reality that you’re expected to live. I mean, there’s no semblance of melody or anything musical here, but if you close your eyes, it sounds like the people you hear going about their day’s every single day. You could even say that it feels like a track for hypnosis, or immersion – everything is so heavy here.
The final track, diary, also takes this strange route of insane noises and builds around this, with increasing industrial samples that dabble around for a long time. That long time becomes incredibly grating after about seven minutes, but I can’t help but feel like this might be the intention – it feels like those moments where every little bad thing that happens to you, just makes things increasingly worse until you eventually snap. Except there’s no snap here.
I’m not sure I understand hidden and that makes me feel awful, but it’s an incredibly difficult album to listen to without wanting to take a break every so often. It could be because I’m not really into noise, but this album is much more difficult to listen to that Sound Awakener’s previous release and since the previous album was already, pretty inaccessible, it just seems to be getting too obscure for me. If you enjoy noise and some industrial elements, I’d recommend this listen for you, but for me, not so much.