THEMBI SODDELL - INTIMACY
From sound on the threshold of perception to rupturing bursts of noise, these manipulated and sculpted environmental recordings hint at an evocative and emotional narrative. A continuous track in 6 movements: violation, withdrawal, mistrust, discomfort, repulsion, expectation. Click here to purchase via paypal. Scroll for reviews.
violation [excerpt]mp3 0:30 min 352k
repulsion [excerpt] mp3 0:30 min 355k
Cyclic Defrost - Bob Baker Fish
Splendid - Walter Miller
The Wire - Jim Haynes
Phosphor - Paul Bijlsma
Vital Weekly - Frans De Waard
Real Time - Jonathan Marshall
Ampersand Notes - Jeremy Keens
The debut release from Melbourne label Cajid is a puzzling work that appears to draw upon some of the darker elements of human relations. Entitled Intimacy, a quick scan of track titles reveals violation, withdrawal, mistrust, discomfort, repulsion and expectation hardly some of the rosier aspects of relationships. The sounds seemingly garnered from field recordings spend much of the time barely perceivable, operating on the edge of listening before they will gradually grow from a faint hiss into dull rumbling, before becoming vaguely comprehensible, often crescendoing into noise before everything is abruptly taken back to the edge of listening again. It’s a strange jarring and uncomfortable world, then again so are the actions and emotions they depict. Soddell seems to favor the elements; the sounds of wind and rain to flesh out her minimal though emotionally volatile landscape and there’s no denying the dark feel of this complex and disquieting work. - Bob Baker Fish Jan 2005 http://www.cyclicdefrost.com
[back to top]
Australian experimental label Cajid Media is off to a great start with its first release, this interesting disc of sculpted ambience from an active Mebourne academic and sound artist. Thembi Soddell's debut is filled with stark, sometimes startling contrast; most of her processed electronic output fills the disc with tiny, barely-there granules, so quiet at first that you aren't quite sure if it's the album or nearby traffic that your ears are perceiving. Then it starts: a growing urgency, expanding geometrically from crawl to trot to full-out sprint. Almost suddenly, Soddell unleashes his big bang, one of several mammoth ice storms of thick, hellish cacophony (akin to taking a nap inside an SST engine, or riding a wayward locomotive off an ocean pier into the eye of a hurricane). It's a paralyzing sound, and the only choice is to knuckle down and ride it out. With headphones on, you feel it blasting you from all sides, relentless, suffocating and... wonderful. And then it's gone.
This is Intimacy's familiar cycle: Soddell uses tranquility and chaos to play sonic cat and mouse games with her audience. As with suspense films, sound is used as a tool for teasing, giving hints at what lurks around the corner, building anticipation. But unlike many B-grade flicks, Soddell actually has the goods to make the wait worth it, delivering a tension-filled thrill ride in the climactic scenes, if not exactly frightening our socks off.
Many of Soddell's sounds have a field-recorded feel, and listeners will have fun trying to identify sources when they are perceptible. For the majority of Intimacy, you'll find yourself straining to hear what's in store. This will be a drag for most palates, but will hit just the right spot for the thrill-seeking segment of the chin strokin' population.- Walt Miller, Splendid ezine9 Dec 2004 http://www.splendidezine.com/
[back to top]
Over the past five years or so, the sound art programme at Australia's RMIT college (university) has graduated a number of students who have gone to make exceptional work, but continue to toil in relative obscxurity outside of Melbourne. Thembi Soddell is one of many intriguing Australian composers and draws heavily from the acousmatic principles of Francisco Lopez . Her performances have ocasionally found her quietly sitting within the audience, which was mostly unaware that the shy girl in the corner was actually responsible for the torrents of noise punctuated by abrupt silences. Like most of Lopez's productions, Soddell culls her source material from field recordings of rain and wind, densely layered into heavy masses of low-end hiss. But where Lopez suspends time and space, Soddell's Intimacy is a quick 25 minutes jaunt that energetically builds a dynamic sequence of theatrical bursts for these environmental sounds before terminating in silence. - Jim Haynes, Outer Limits, The Wire, Dec 2004.
[back to top]
Based in Melbourne and working predominantly with transformed field recordings as she is, I confidently expect to see a Thembi Soddell album out someday on Naturestrip (see above) - in the meantime here is Intimacy, a suite of sorts of six continuously running movements entitled "Violation", "Withdrawal", "Mistrust", "Discomfort", "Repulsion" and "Expectation". Sounds scary enough to be a kind of imaginary rape scenario you might think (originally the work was designed for an installation performance in a "dark and claustrophobic space lined with red drapes"), but the sound doesn't automatically follow correspond to what the titles might lead you to expect: "Violation" and "Withdrawal" both crescendo menacingly but only (perceptibly) towards the end, "Mistrust" is a 37 second white noise apocalypse (you may curse me for having told you this, but the instruction on the disc "before listening it is recommended the volume be set with track three at maximum loudness" should have tipped you off.. the instruction is a bit theatrical and frankly unnecessary, as the track is, in context, going to bring you up with a severe shock anyway, whatever the volume setting of your system). "Discomfort" also rises in intensity until it peaks in "Repulsion", after which the closing "Expectation" leaves you guessing, which I suppose is what expectation is all about. At just under 26 minutes it's about the length of what these days gets sold as a maxi single; shame it couldn't have been paired with another more contrasting work. I'm inclined to think that Soddell has a good ear and sound sense of timing and structure, but I'd like to hear more of her work to make sure first. - DW. Paris Transatlantic, Sept 2004.
[back to top]
The Melbourne-based artist Thembi Soddell graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2002. She did quite a lot of exhibitions in her hometown between 2000 and 2003. This might be of no surprise, because her work is very suitable as sound installation. Intimacy starts at the treshold of perception, making the first part of
the opening track a sort of unconscious listening experience. The distance to the sound source seems to be huge. All of a sudden this changes and a dark wave of sound washes. A wall of white noise dominates to one's surprise. It disappears just as unexpectedly as it came to existance. This is a recognizable aspect of Thembi Soddell's work. Her work is mainly based upon the manipulation of field/environmental recordings. The six tracks are of a constant and hig level: beautiful and intelligent waves of
manipulated, layered and digitalized sound particles with fluctuating sound levels.
This is the first release by Cajid Media, a company concentrating on Australian experimental sound and video. Bruce Mowson's Static tones will be the second. Hopefully, it will be just as good. - Paul Bijlsma, Phosphor Magazine, Berlin
[back to top]
Another new label from down under and another new artist. Thembi Soddell graduated in 2002 from RMIT in Melbourne and after that she presented her work in concerts, gallery installation and her interest lies mostly in the narrative nature of dynamics (silence vs noise). The work on this CD, six parts in twenty-six minutes is from a four channel installation at the exhibition '360 Degrees: Women In Sound'. Apperentely all of the sounds used here are from processed field recordings, and upon hearing them, I thought: hmmm... she went to the same field as where Senor Lopez does his field recordings. Stretched out fields (pun intended) of processed hissing sounds, with the difference that Thembo Soddell builts them quicker and to a much louder volume. There is a certain surprise element in this music: things can change quite abruptly, from quite loud to quite low. This makes 'Intimacy' into a nice CD, even when the idea of dynamics aren't very new and neither is the use of field r ecordings. However, in general this is not a bad work at all, and actually I quite enjoyed hearing this. - Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly 417, The Netherlands
[back to top]
Thembi Soddell’s Intimacy was originally composed for an installation, played back within a small, shadowy anteroom curtained by heavy, red velvet. It was an apt environment for the work, adding to the sense of horror-movie-like unease produced by the sudden rises and dips in volume, and the unrelenting intensity of the harder noises contained within the piece. Dealing particularly with oscillations between periods of high volume and intensity, versus extremely quiet, subdued and subliminal textures, Intimacy demands attentive, focused listening, whichalthough best supported by installation receptionis not strictly necessary for the sonic elements to function. Thus while Soddell’s release runs a fine line in sustaining itself within a home listening environment, it nevertheless succeeds for those listeners who might be willing to make the effort.
As with much abstract, partly subliminal work (Elizabeth Drake, Livia Ruzic etc), Soddell’s palette mysteriously segues between apparently organic sound sources or ambiences, and more electronic or radiophonic sounds: fire, water, wind, sharp bird- like cries, trains, static, and tiny electronic squeaks. However the sound is marked by consistency, by sheets and by textures, rather than by punctums or gestures. The more pointed elements act as acoustic frottage within the larger patinas from which they barely emerge.
Despite some superficial similarities, Soddell’s composition is not a ‘noise’ work in any true sense. Tightly focused repetitions and arcs are what characterise these constantly dynamic yet predictable sheets of sound. These structures and textures are too subtle to be described as ‘roiling’, yet a similar sense of constant, patterned agitation, of almost imperceptible swells and decays, mark the sonic elements. Intimacy’s more extended, quiet sections recall the work of Franc Tetaz on his most abstract, least glitch-funk infused pieces, such as The Motionless World of the Time Between (Dorobo, 1997).
It is however the turbulent seesawing between moments of near silence, sudden, loud leaps into the sonic foreground, and sustained sections of near overwhelming intensity, which are the most overt structural developments manipulated by Soddell. The interplay of levels and of thresholds of perception gives the soundscape an intense drama, creating an emotional world of growing storms, potentially catastrophic resolutions and even perhaps ecstatic transcendence. This is the music of both horror fiction and religious vision, of terror and seduction, of pleasure and pain: a fine release for the attentive listener. - Jonathan Marshall, Realtime, Earbash
[back to top]
Thembi Soddell has had a couple of appearances on compilations (Dorobo Document 03, Variable Resistance) and now has the short Intimacy on a new Australian label, Cajid Media (www.cajid.com, cd001). There is a note to set the volume Œwith track three at maximum loudness? which is ambiguous but means set the volume of that track to a level which you can take, at that is the maximum for the set I think. Because what Soddel works with here is dramatic contrasts; Violation starts at minimal volume, tape loop clicks with soft high tones in, gradually increasing and overlapping before, 5.5 minutes in, a rumble builds to an intense loud whooshing, the tones still in there, ending abruptly. The second piece, Withdrawl, tinkles and soft winds emerge before sudden short peaks, fading and then building to a white noise peak. Mistrust is a brief noise burst, Discomfort a burry pulse, peaked spatter assault, then industrial cycling, rain patter drops build to a rushing, falls away then back, easing to a spattering again and the Repulsion whooshes. Finally Expectation has a site recording, hollow with distant sounds, pulses then rumbles and squeaks before a voice-like rhythm that breaks up peaks and the pulses. The extremes make this a difficult listen you have to be on your toes for the changes but well worth the contemplation and focus required. - Jeremy Keens ampersand notes 2004_6
[back to top]
$AU17 including postage (worldwide)