Review: Thembi Soddell – Love Songs (Room40, Apr 13)

Love Songs begins with nearly complete silence. And it stays there for a while too, almost to the point where I was convinced nothing was actually playing. Then, almost imperceptible clicks and electronic noises emerge, building into an expanding tower of abstract sound that rises in a logarithmic crescendo (so don’t get impatient and crank your volume at the beginning; you’ll regret it later) before collapsing under its own weight. This first track, “Object (Im)Permanence,” demonstrates the unique power of artist Thembi Soddell’s newest release: its tremendous dynamic range. Sometimes, the volume changes are gradual; but they are also often disarmingly sudden, plucking powerfully loud, layered sculptures and replacing them with nothing. But even though looking at the waveform diagrams of the tracks would show this, on Love Songs the silence is just as invasive as the clamor. It gets under your skin, makes you uneasy even though you’re not quite sure why, almost makes you long for it to replaced with some sound, anything at all… And just when you think you’re about to go crazy, Soddell raises jarring electroacoustic collages from where there was once no sound at all. Love Songs is enthralling and ambitious, and is without a doubt one of the most fascinating albums I’ve heard this year.

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