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Thembi Soddell

Love Songs

April 13, 2018
CD + Book, Digital, Streaming

The music of Australian artist Thembi Soddell resides in a zone of unrelenting darkness and physical affect. 

Working at the nexus of raw emotion, sound design and musique concrete, they create sound worlds that are effortlessly dense and abyss-like. In their performances, they explore sonic environments which swallow the audience. By utilising intense sound pressure and varying dynamics, they create profoundly unsettling, but fulfilling, experiences for their audiences.

Love Songs, their latest work, is easily the clearest articulation of their methodologies. A work of extreme dynamics and intensities, the record is one of the most fierce sonic expressions to be delivered from an Australian artist in recent years.

“The title Love Songs,” Thembi explains, “is a little dark humour on my behalf. As the compositional process evolved the work became a meditation on the lived experience of insidious forms of abuse within supposedly loving relationships, in connection to certain forms of mental illness. These experiences are ones of extremes and emotional intensities; the tensions between horror, beauty, rage, desire, confusion, love and perceptual annihilation. Also, a good deal of the source material for the album is voice. I asked Alice Hui-Sheng Chang to vocalise perceptual collapse, which I sampled and manipulated into expressions of these themes. So, these are my love songs.”

Published alongside an extensive book, outlining more literal readings of their ideas of sonic affect, contemporary relationships and the nature of becoming, Soddell’s Love Songs is an utterly personal and compelling listen. It’s equal parts horror, anxiety, relief and exhilaration, often in the same instant. A truly remarkable rendering of sound that extends the possibilities for how we are embraced and engulfed by the acoustics we encounter.

Thembi Soddell (b. Australia 1980) is a sound artist and electroacoustic composer with an interest in psychology, perception, subjectivity and affect in relation to intense encounters with sound. Their distinct approach to composition exploits dynamic extremes, creating volatile, evocative sound experiences with a disquieting edge. They create works for recording, installation and performance — including three solo CD releases, presentations at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and City Gallery Wellington, and two European tours in a duo with cellist Anthea Caddy. Since 2010 they have been engaged in practice-based research at RMIT University, focusing on the articulation of firsthand experiences of mental illness, trauma and psychological distress using sound art practice. They also work as sound designer and dramaturg for theatre and dance, and have guest curated for the National Gallery of Victoria. Their work has been described as “extremely accomplished” (Diffusion) and inducing of “psychological terror” (Real Time Arts). Soddell lives in rural Victorian town, Clunes.