Hēran Soun reimagines the sound landscape in his thrilling new album Undeaf. Experimenting with sonic blends and instrumentation, this level of artistic achievement situates this exciting artist into the best of the best when it comes to experimental art and electronica. Hēran Soun, the moniker of James Freeman-Turner, comes from Freeman-Turner’s experience as losing his hearing. After regaining his hearing, his obsession with recording and music, captures the relentless search for an emotional connection to sound.
The opener, “I Offer”, has an immediate grip on the listener. It’s a mix of elation and murky, mysterious blends. It’s audacious. The voice is deep, spellbinding. The word ‘offer’ seems to linger for hours….extending into almost three words rolled into one. It’s a sigh, a world being released in the form of just one word. Moving into “A Picture Of A Woman” and “The Same Battles (So Close)” Hēran Soun has a bashful way about his approach. He’s in the background, navigating his way around the music bed like an explorer.
At times, like in “When You Wanted” he reaches falsetto heights. His voice curls, while an electronic bed meanders like a grand classical song. His voice reminds me of Henry Hall. There’s chilling moments where the higher pitched delivery is actually haunting. In other times, as in “Bad & Worse” he doesn’t use words at all – the music engulfs the listener in a stirring storyline. Staying with the atmospheric tones, the seventh track, “In My Mouth” actually starts out with a typing sound. It’s like you can hear the fingers typing on an old fashioned typewriter, before the sound glues together with electric bets and ethereal motions.
One of the other standouts on Undeaf is the gloomy and cryptic “Let Me Go”. Let me stay away, he sings. He hums along, as the dark music bed underneath him slithers like water. This song made me feel like the he was reaching into the depths of his soul to convey pain. I’m not sure if he’s singing about a relationship, but I could almost surmise that he’s singing about an addiction like alcoholism. He could also be addicted to a person in his life and he knows he needs to leave. Near the end of the saw, in a manic state, he’s screaming as what sounds like an acoustic guitar is nearly pulverized. This song really digs deep into the sadness of one’s soul, but again, there’s always a shining light at the end.
Finally, I’d like to highlight the last track “Who Are You”. Hēran Soun’s stirring vocals reach that bright spot between the highest pitch and maintaining a clear sound. The piano is stuttered, a faint bass guitar blurbs now and then. His humming in this one almost sounds like a distanced violin. The last moments are calming and invigorating all-at-once. This song reminds me of the moving score from the Netflix (German) series Dark. You feel like you’re peeling off layers of emotion and the scars are healing…this song takes you to a place in the mind that most songs just cannot.
by Bethany Page