Sandy Ewen, a Brooklyn-based sound artist and architect, creates subtly transportive improvisations on her first solo LP, You Win. Her work employs a wide variety of different extended techniques to explore the infinite possibilities of sound made by the guitar. The album features two sets recorded in 2018 that each stem from the type of airy crackling that’s often dubbed ASMR, but the magic of the record lies in its unraveling. Ewen embraces a musical process based on change that comes in slow-motion—it’s a restrained change that blooms in waves. “You Win,” the title track, exemplifies this ideology as it travels in sections from crunching sounds to erratic guitar distortion to high-pitched chirping. These shifts in sound space move seamlessly, so much so you almost forget how the sound has come and gone. This subtlety manifests in other ways too, like on “Face Topography,” where sound is delicate and tactile, through gargling pitches and abrasive scratching against the strings of a guitar.
While tangibility is a central part of the music Ewen makes on You Win, she takes the concept a step further in her visual recreations of the improvisations featured on the album. These surrealist visuals, informed by her expertise in architecture, launch her music into its own virtual reality that’s gradually, but steadily, engulfing. Like the music, the videos work in slow-motion, gently weaving through absurdist scenery and moving deeper into mysterious realms. The eccentric reality Ewen imagines is hypnotic, a place where total immersion is the cause rather than the effect. —Vanessa Ague
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