Undeaf (LP) by Hēran Soun
Undeaf is the first album from the mysteriously awesome Hēran Soun. Heartfelt and an emotional jarring, Hēran Soun approaches the album as a musician who lost and later regained his hearing. Searching and digging for the sounds brewing in his mind, the 11 tracks on Undeaf are completely unexpected. What genre is Hēran Soun? I’ll leave that distinction to the listener.
Hēran Soun, born James Freeman-Turn, underwent several surgeries to repair his hearing and later re-learning how to speak, often sings with a gloss. I didn’t hear the crispness in his words, the lyrics are often elongated and hummed. It’s intriguing. You can still capture what he’s saying, but he heavily relies on the rhythms and beats in the songs. The creations also come from Hēran Soun’s time spent in the studio. Given unprecedented access to the Oakland, California, recording studio owned by artist Roy Lichtenstein’s son. Hēran Soun slept in his RV in the studio’s parking lot during the day, and during the evening hours into the early morning, like a mad scientist he formulated the sounds in his mind.
Some of my favorite songs on the album include “A Lover Waits” and “In My Mouth”. These songs can at times feel like they are crawling into your skin, so intimate and almost gnawing into your mind. If “In My Mouth” were an Instagram photo, it would have a sepia texture. Hēran Soun, who is also a sojourner, rides the waves of these songs like a seasoned storyteller. He current travel schedule has had him performing in front of closed music venues, a way to bring awareness to the #SAVEOURSTAGES bill push. He’s a breath of fresh air in these songs.
My personal audio compass really kept going back to the song “Let Me Go”. I couldn’t let it go, you could say. It’s a bundle of weirdness and to dissect it means to break down the numerous clings and clangs. It goes from rapid fire to gelatinous colors. I felt very torn and yet comforted. I suppose all of the tracks on Undeaf made me feel as if I were in a yoga session. There are moments when you are breathing hard, really focused on the breath in-and-out of your body. There are moments in yoga, too, when you are so still and your mind is in complete levity. I think Hēran Soun gives himself in these songs, but wants the listener to take them where they may. I like that they aren’t literal and they don’t follow a traditional pop song pattern. They don’t follow a pattern at all.
Hēran Soun is an artist with much to say, but he really he doesn’t say much. He lets the music do the talking. I think listeners will really find themselves dropping their inhibitions and fall under his spell. I certainly did. Undeaf may not be Top 40 or Hot 100 material, but it’s most definitely an opportunity to tip toe into avant-garde territory. Let yourself go and enjoy the ride.