Boomkat Product Review:
Sound animist Alexandra Spence channels fascinations with material, object and place in richly atmospheric tributes to the native spirits of Vancouver, Hong Kong and Sydney for a very snug fit with Room 40 on their new tape series.
Respectfully mindful to her sites of interest, Spence’s work exists in a mid ground between field recording, composition, performance and installation, where she distills everyday sound into a subtly enchanting listening experience. ‘A Necessary Softness’ is the Australian artist’s sophomore release with Room 40 after ‘Waking She Heard The Fluttering’ (2019) and serves to further her nuanced flux of ideas with poetic effect. Spence’s vocals are an ephemeral presence amid the work’s unravelling soundscapes and shifting barometric pressures, vacillating acoustic and electronic textures with a captivating tactility and synergy comparable with other notables in this arena, such as Kate Carr, Claire Rousay, or Félicia Atkinson, yet finely telling her own story of transience based on her travels across the Pacific rim.
Acknowledging the influence of the people and lands where she lived and recorded - the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and the Coast Salish peoples; the Sqamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam Nations - draws her ‘Necessary Softness’ from found objets and the sounds of nature, using FX to transform their resonant bodies and her ginger gestures into gently surrealistic impressions of those places, and their atmospheres. ’Tidewater’ is as tidewater does, seeping in slow and low and gradually submerging with volume, only to recede into ‘Waves,’ while ‘Bell, Fern’ contrasts hard and soft, brittle and stroked textures that beckon to bed down in their hypnagogic lull, eventually turning into a sort of ambient-pop, and ‘Rain’ revels in the eternally delicious sensation of drizzle on a hot day.