Somatic Suspension, like its title suggests, is a product of its time. An examination of detachment and stillness. Full of unease. Deeply personal. Without the movement demanded by our socialising, our commutes, our routines, we have been sedentary. Blessed with more time to create, certainly, but without new experiences and personal dramas (for the fortunate), for many it’s been creatively barren soil. Stockholm-based Spanish pianist Hara Alonso used her instrument as a vehicle to and from introspection, from which emerged piano lines striking in their simplicity, their repetition. Opening piece “Desnuda” undermines its sweet, spacious notes with a soft chord that repeats its jarring intonation throughout. With a contrasting tempo, “The Centre Of The Sun Is Empty” imparts an impassioned and increasing anxious ivory song through rapidly struck single notes, which persist for an exhausting six minutes before fading and warping into digital nothingness.
But we’ve filed this under ‘Experimental’ because Alonso is less interested in the purity of a single instrument or the prettiness of a melody than she is in subjecting that to all manner of digital trauma and finding something resonant in whatever falls off ~ prettiness and ugliness equally embraced. And so we move from “Horizontal Disintegration”, where the keys are no longer discernable, replaced with rhythmic pops, glitches and scratches scuttling beneath aborted keypad tones and swelling digital chimes, straight into “The Work of Poetry”, where persistent piano chords dominate yet are lured in part to the fringes through a filter that makes two lines go a touch out of sync. The digital taking control in either scenario, whether overtly or discreetly.
There’s a moment about halfway through this record that triggers deeply harbored irritation. Jolting me from reverie, a persistent popping sound emerges from the canvas that is the exact same sound my former computer monitors used to make in their final days (which came far too soon). The piece ~ “40 Days of Silence” ~ is one of this fine record’s strongest, moving through various states of disintegration that render this personal echo of technological demise, in fact, entirely apt. But it still makes me feel uneasy. (It also calls to mind the dramatic, perplexing culmination of Neurosis’ A Sun That Never Sets LP, which sounded like the CD was skipping – surely the genuine bane of so many a teenager armed with an unreliable discman?)
Pay attention to your body, and it’ll return in kind. For the anxious, this can be debilitating – an inner twinge that assumes graver forms, but for the merely curious, it can be rewarding. Through these simple piano lines ~ some blemished by acknowledged ‘mistakes’ that any musician will tell you often become the true soul of their sound; some warped, ensnared and echoed beyond recognition ~ Alonso conveys a very personal experiences. At the most abstract is “Reversed Rain” ~ a title that may well be literal. The piece is bereft of melody or at least complete melody, as the ghosts of what were once piano notes attempt to squirm free of their digital graves, but full of fuzzing, popping rhythms that chatter over each other. At the least abstract is closer “La Memoria del Futuro”, which cleaves to one touching melody throughout, its various guises failing to disguise the coherence otherwise conveyed. We can hope that this artist found her focus.
Whether this record resonates with you as it did me may come down to whether you are equally drawn to its snatches of coherence and its underlying chaos. Somewhere in their meeting ~ exemplified in the echo of my broken speakers ~ I found the personal. (Chris Redfearn-Murray)