Spun: Greg Davis

By Peter Hemminger

Musically, it’s safe to say Somnia is a failure. The languorous pacing of the tracks, each featuring a single, heavily digitally altered instrument in an extended drone, is so fitting to the album title as to be almost funny.

It’s as if the church lady fell asleep at her organ and every so often, twitched her arms to shift to another chord. To call it ambient would be generous, it resembles more than anything a sound effects collection like Sound Ideas’ Drone Archaeology–a production tool, not an album in itself.

As a piece of sound art, it’s only moderately more successful. The album could be taken as Davis, who has in the past created much more accessible laptop folk and is well versed in jazz composition, commenting on the ability of technology to alter the organic. It’s certainly true for anybody trying to recognize a trace of acoustic guitar or harmonica in the shimmering drawls presented in Somnia, but that’s hardly enough to sustain interest for up to 20 minutes at a time.

Most art, especially abstract and representational art, is non-linear to leave interpretations up to the listener. Audio is inherently linear and this can only exist for so long without movement.

There are some who will hail Somnia as a triumph over the short attention spans of modern society. The subtle changes and background sounds Davis inserts, they will insist, are to create auditory images from a minimalist perspective, forcing listeners to focus on sonic textures rather than standard concepts like melody and rhythm.

Regardless of intent, it’s simply not interesting enough to justify Somnia’s length. To listen all the way through without succumbing to the state within the title would be a near Herculean task.

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