Experimental or avant-garde music albums are not for everyone. The listening experience is often complex, weird, and explicitly challenging. The most impressive of these albums will leave the adventurous listener with a lasting impression, an imprint on their psyche, and maybe also a profound alteration in how they conceive the term ‘music’. Many avant-garde artists rattle the concept of music as an art form, leading to some groundbreaking leaps forward. Hence when embarking on the journey of listening to such unpredictable creations, you have to trust in the expected transitory turns up ahead so that you may arrive safely at the destination. One such album is “Subsume”, by Richard Hare.
To start with, sound designer Richard Hare, created this 16 track album using nonmusical objects. “I have captured ordinary sounds from in and around my home and IT office, like dropping RAM on the floor, hitting a rubber-band ball with a hammer, a barcode scanner beeping, the timer on my toaster oven, etc. to create sonics involving no actual musical instruments,” explained Richard. “These are then altered with effects and pitch changes to create sounds that no longer resemble their origin and mix them into moody music.”
Richard, who aspires to creating movie, TV and video game soundtracks, describes the style of the music heard on “Subsume”, as a horror movie soundtrack or very dark ambient music. However this album is more than that. It can be considered a concept album, investigating the inner workings of the human psyche.
The narrative concerns itself with the plight of the Main Character which encounters the The Shadows inside a hypothetical mind. The two coexist until it becomes clear that the intent of The Shadows is sinister. Each subsequent track take us through the evolution of this coexistence, in which the Main Character struggles to maintain its sanity.
Right from the start, with the opening track, “Vertebrae”, the sound emits a uniqueness that could only protrude from the mind of an uncommon musical creator. Ultimately there is so much occurring, and you need to focus on the unusual instruments as the story unfolds in your mind.
You will often find yourself pondering the source of the sounds – a daunting task to say the least, as Richard has transformed them beyond recognition in most cases. Precisely interpreting the meaning of each song is another intimidating endeavor, considering firstly that this is instrumental music, and secondly it has been made with nonmusical instruments.
Luckily in the album footnotes, Richard Hare comes to our rescue with carefully detailed descriptions of each track. Over and above the tonal textures and nuances, the tracks here are percussively impacting, and it is those percussive shifts and intensities, to my mind, which triggers our emotions beyond anything else.
The fractious beating of “Divergence” and “Recluse”, for example, is in strong contrast with the sublime slow boom of “Perpent”. And once you read Richard’s descriptive notes, you’ll fully understand that the sounds cohesively follow the narrative from start to finish.
As you move forward through each of the 16 sonic creations on “Subsume”, you’ll begin to grasp the revolutionary insight, exotic sounds, bizarre noises, and deep thought that makes Richard Hare a unique storyteller. All of this makes the album an exquisite work of invented instrumentation, sound design, emotion, and intellect.
Describing each track, as you would on a regular pop music album, makes no sense at all, with the kind of epic aural experience we’re presented with on “Subsume”. It could certainly be attempted, but would never do any justice to either the creator, or the work itself. This is truly a recording that needs to be experienced in the first person.
It’s rare that you run across an album which is a complete singularity within the context of its chosen art-form. “Subsume” is such a work. What becomes palpably clear throughout this recording, is that Richard Hare is seriously concerned about the condition of the human mind and its effects on our existence. This is a complex masterwork that will thoroughly reward the open-minded listener.