Before I say anything else about September Traveler from Sound Awakener, let me get one massive peeve out of the way. While composer Nhung Nguyen notes on her Bandcamp page that this is a collection of earlier works, she has apparently chosen to present portions of these works, ending them in a sudden and seemingly arbitrary ways. The first time it happened, at the end of the title track, I thought it was one of those moments where, my music being on my phone, a text message had come in and the phone dipped the mp3 sound briefly. But no, it was the out-of-nowhere end of the track. This happens throughout the disc, and it sounds a bit sloppy. That peeve out of the way, what about the music? Well, it’s varied in approach, ranging from dense washes of sound to repurposing “daily objects” and field recordings, and for me it’s hit or miss. The title track is interesting. Nguyen uses a rich density of sound, just at the edge of being over modulated so that it creates a shifting, somewhat misty wall. It’s hypnotic in its constant shifting tone—and then it drops off the face of the planet. “Pale Morning” stems, I believe, from her experiments with music boxes (seen here). The halting, tinny sound has a certain intriguing charm as it staggers forward—and then it just stops cold. Nguyen gives 16 minutes over to “The Shade You’ve Become” and spends that time showing her dark, hard side. This is a gritty, snarling thing based in piano, carved out of fisted chords and resonance. There’s a nice raw emotion to it; to my ears, it leaks out anger and pain. This is also the only place where Nguyen’s penchant for inexplicable fade-outs doesn’t mar the moment. Then again, it’s had 16 minutes to have its say.
Sound Awakener’s work is experimental in nature, focused on “creating an endless sonic world, where the connection between music, awareness, nature and technology appears.” I like the compositional ideas that are happening here, though I recognize that some listeners may not find an easy point of entry. Once they’re in, however, it would be nice if the rug wasn’t yanked out from under them at the end of every track. A smoother editing hand would be welcome on future endeavors.
Available from the Sound Awakener Bandcamp site.