Sound Awakener – Monochrome.

Sound Awakener is Nhung Ngyuen from Vietnam who occasionally releases under her own name. So far this year has seen a collaborative release with Dalot “Little Things” (Fluid Audio) and appearing on /compiling the Flaming Pines Vietnamese compilation “Emergence”. “Monochrome” on Elm Records (run by James Osland) sees her return to the label for the first time since 2016’s “Home”.

Sound Awakener’s EP “Monochrome” is an experiment with drone ambient pieces and photography. Four black and white photos were chosen as themes for four sound pieces. Nhung Nguyen observed the composition, pattern and tone of the photos and connected these elements with the atmosphere of the sound pieces. The minimal quality of black and white photos reflect the structure of the sound pieces: each track is based on a few patterns and some field recordings, with a lot of manipulation. This results in the melancholic moods throughout the album.

For this review, each of the photographs that inspired the pieces (and are inserts in the physical releases) are shown above the track titles.

“Monochrome” the opening track and the Ep’s epic at just under eleven minutes is a glacial paced lush ambient drone track with nice, rich tones that lightly oscillate and shimmer. The drones are long in form and are weaved into a pattern that feels like it’s constantly moving. There is change of tones from lighter ones to slightly deeper ones which may represent the depth of light in the above photo. Within the drones there are differing sounds from the more linear drones to the drones that are manipulated to give a more fractured and textural sound quality. Balancing the sounds is integral to sustaining the listeners interest in drone music and this track never ventures into territory that is overly noisy or discordant.

“One Frame At A Time” ventures the album into a more ghostly territory possibly imaging the above scene to be of a haunted environment. Scattershot sounds and eerie electronics lead into choral drones and voices that are backward recordings and could be interpreted as voices of a spirit or ghost. While color and tone were present in the opening, this track strips it out and leaves a sonic facsimile of the photo. While not being dark ambient, it’s heading towards that territory with the drones being particularly cold. The lugubrious pace highlights this harshness with the drones being long and at times, pulsing. As the track progresses it gets swallowed up by static, swirly, noisy sounds before fading away.

“Silent Dream” the above photo represent a café strip which judging by the amount if people is a busy one. The music represents that busyness by being full of sound. The music feels a bit distant, submerged in a murky cloak with field recordings and static interlaced with the drones. The music probably suits a photo of something like a harsh unforgiving environment that is being battered by bad weather as the track has that particular sound quality about it.

“In The Garden” returns the listener to the more melodic tones that opened the Ep. Sounding like a mix of lush drones and field recordings, the track gas depth of ever evolving sound with a feeling of a humid afternoon in a public garden. There are sounds which sound like sprinklers watering the garden alongside birds and the music, while still holding a bit of the murkiness of the previous track, has a radiating feel to it. The drones pulse and sounds flow over each other creating an elevated piece which is a welcome return as Nguyen has a good ability to create melody laden drone tunes.

This Ep which comes in a limited edition of 50 cdr copies and was mastered by James Armstrong (Slow Clinic / Rusted Tone Recordings) would suit those listeners who like pure drone that plays with light & color, depth & tone and that can be interpreted by each and every listener.

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