Frequent visitors to Black Metal & Brews know that this site is more interested in authenticity than genre parameters. Sometimes the opportunity to review a less than amazing black metal album is simply not as compelling as the prospect of sharing something artistically whole and new with my readers, even if it is greatly removed from the broad net of black metal. As part of my ongoing journey into subtler sounds, I’m delighted to help spread the word about Sound Awakener‘s recent release, September Traveler. While the album is Vietnamese artist Nhung Nguyen’s newest offering, it’s actually a rather cohesive and fluid collection of recordings from 2011 and 2012 (with the addition of one new composition), designed to serve as the soundtrack to Irene Cruz’s recent art installation in Berlin. While I was unable to publish this piece before the installation’s end on February 18th, Sound Awakener’s beautiful work here is still worth discussing.
From the hazy introduction of the title track onward, Sound Awakener puts itself out there as a multifaceted entity. Organic sounds are distorted and reworked into ethereal tones that hover somewhere between euphoric and nightmarish, in much the way that objects tend to be harder to see in twilight than in either daylight or complete darkness. While the first few moments give the impression that this album might be a soothing or familiar piece of ambient music, it quickly becomes clear that there is a journey of discovery to be had between these tracks. From childhood memories viewed through a new lens as an adult to moments between wakefulness and dream, September Traveler is an album of transition and rediscovery, with all the highs and lows one might expect to encounter on the path to self-realization. Is it painful? At times it can be, but for the most part, even the darkest moments are tempered with a comforting blanket of fuzz, as on the title track or on the lengthy sprawl of “The shade you’ve become.” A true album highlight is the dizzy piano that dances over the crackling emptiness of “Learning to drown” in which no apparent direction makes sense but the uncertainty is almost more welcoming than any obvious resolution would have been.
The world is a strange and scary place, but music is the balm for all wounds and confusion and Sound Awakener’s ambient collage work makes every moment in life feel like it deserves a soundtrack of some sort, from the minute and irrelevant to the life-changing alike. It’s worth mentioning that Sound Awakener’s bandcamp is full of similarly compelling gems, so take a gander and find your own soundtrack. If you’d like to own this album on compact disc, Irene Cruz is offering the CD through her website as she is responsible for the album’s hauntingly simple yet poignant art.