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, she creates sound worlds that are effortlessly dense and abyss-like. In her performances, she explores sonic environments which swallow the audience. By utilising intense sound pressure and varying dynamics she creates profoundly unsettling, but fulfilling, experiences for her audiences.
Love Songs, her latest work, is easily the clearest articulation of her 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 her 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. Her distinct approach to composition exploits dynamic extremes, creating volatile, evocative sound experiences with a disquieting edge. She creates works for recording, installation and performance — including two solo CD releases (with a third planned for late 2017), 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 she has 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. She also works as sound designer and dramaturg for theatre and dance and has guest curated for the National Gallery of Victoria. Her work has been described as “extremely accomplished” (Diffusion) and inducing of "psychological terror" (Real Time Arts). Soddell lives in rural Victorian town, Clunes.