A gentle emotionally powerful visual album with many overlapping metaphors.
I was prodded to share some music from diverse tastes that I think you might like. I'm going to start with "AWAKEN", a visual album by Laura Mam. I've been to Cambodia twice and have fallen for the music. Their '60s and early '70s was a melting pot of styles and many kept a unique Cambodian flavour to them. If you find many Asian singing styles too nasally then Laura Mam's contemporary rock music will win you over.
Laura Mam says this about the album:
“Awaken” translates to in my eyes, “trah dung”. It is a time for the enlightening of the mind for our people, a time to see myself as a Cambodian and Cambodia in all of its beauty and its flaws. I am awakened to see that truth. And I hope you will be too. In this project, I used many metaphors that I hope will make you question, open your mind, and think critically about all of our lives here, what we owe to ourselves, our nation, and our future generation.
This is a tale of a great Cambodian nightmare, of defeat and despair, and a return to hope.
That last sentence really sums up the emotional trajectory of the work. This is contemporary rock with a peaceful sound and its culture right at the core. You won't need to understand Khmer language, history or culture to find value in this album, but if you do know these things then you'll be well rewarded. Your feels will be more than enough to get what's going on and that makes this a universally human work.
Put this album on during a rainy day, when you need something contemplative to soundtrack your work, or to process your breakup. This isn't music for the impatient, the agitated or for the pre-workout hype session. Instead, let this music's quiet insistence creep up and seduce you into coming on its journey.
The visuals do enhance the experience, but if I asked you to watch just one track, it would be the fourth track which starts at 12:35. Well, you could start the track at 13:10 but I think the noisescape and Laura's reaction to it is important to understand the track. I later found out this has also become Laura's favourite track too.
The fourth track features a pair of Apsara dancers. For me, this track is the most introspective processing of what has gone before, an acceptance of the past and how to move forward; this is self-reckoning that precedes accepting brightness again. This is the equivalent of watching the climatic battle from an action film, but its gentle, quiet yet totally confident in the direction it wants to take you. The intimate house setting paints this as primarily an internal struggle with dancers standing in the turmoil in the singer's mind. The mixture of contemporary and traditional dancing perfectly emotes the way the dancer finds comfort and turmoil in the old and the new before mediating a new solace for themselves.
Let me know what you think of the track in the comments.