The Maker #21 – Sound Awakener

Nhung Nguyen joins us for this latest instalment of The Maker feature. Nhung has been performing and releasing music under the name of Sound Awakener since 2011. The Hanoi-based artist appeared first on RTR for the Casssette Store Day 2018 special split release, ‘Two Haunted Pianos’, alongside Tyson Swindell, combining delicate piano with processed field recordings. A few months later, Nhung and Ho Tram Anh (under the name of Oblivia) & Gallery Six released the album ‘These Cyan Fantasies’ on RTR in December 2018.

In addition to releasing albums via RTR, Nhung has also appeared on a number of labels over the years, including a release with Dalot on Fluid Audio, Elm Records, Soft Recordings alongside Linear Bells, and Unknown Tone Records alongside Gallery Six, to name a few. It’s worth mentioning that Nhung has also been releasing music under her own name since 2015, exploring a more cinematic and melodic direction that can be found here.

In this feature, Nhung talks about discovering ambient music through an interest in field recordings and environmental sound, finding inspiration through everyday actions, creating immersive sonic environments, and the family archive of Vietnamese pop music cassettes.

Sound Awakener performing live

How did you first get introduced to ambient/drone/experimental music?

When I was a child, I was always keen on listening to the world around me, especially the sounds in Hanoi, the city I live it. I think that later became my interest in ambient, drone and experimental music.

I got introduced to ambient and experimental music all thanks to the Internet around 10 years ago or more. In 2012 I discovered Bandcamp and since then it’s always been my favourite source for discovering and buying new ambient/experimental releases.

What inspires you to create a new body of work?

I’m inspired by the little, daily things in life when it comes to creating a new work: a conversation, a book I read, a memory, etc. Collaborating with artists whose practice I find I can learn something is also an inspiration.

How do you approach working on a new release?

I start with a theme/concept in mind then collect field recordings for that project. Most of my work happens like that: collecting field recordings, processing them then adding more instrumentation.

Sound Awakener and Tyson Swindell – ‘Two Haunted Pianos’ (RTR009)

Can you tell us about your favourite new release from the last 12 months?

It’s ‘Contact’ by Kate Carr and it actually has a recording of my voice. I’m always interested in the use transmission art in sound artwork and how we communicate to each other.  Kate did a great job in constructing an immersive sonic environment in the performance setting.

As RTR is a tape label, we have to ask: What attracts you to the cassette medium?

I fell in love with cassettes when I was a child – my family has a cassette archive of Vietnamese traditional and 80s pop music. When I grow up I find the cassette medium  attractive to me because of its warm, fuzzy sounds. And it’s affordable at the same time. Apart from that, it’s easy to buy a cassette tape player here, making cassette tapes a little bit more accessible than vinyl or reel-to-reel tapes.

Nhung Nguyen Bandcamp

Tapes for ‘Two Haunted Pianos’ and ‘These Cyan Fantasies’ may have sold out, but the albums are still available in digital form. The trio of Gallery Six & Oblivia will be returning to RTR in the future with a new album and a reissue of ‘These Cyan Fantasies’.

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