Liew Niyomkarn ~ I Think of Another Time When You Heard It

I Think of Another Time When You Heard It is an album about juxtaposition and contradiction. Sonically, there’s the interaction of acoustic and synthesized sounds as they’re layered atop one another. Lyrically, there’s the “you” and the “I,” and the mundane and the dramatic. Conceptually, there’s the East and the West, as Liew Niyomkarn splits her time between Thailand and Belgium; the album was recorded between these two locations. And finally there’s the dichotomy of memory: the past juxtaposed with the present.

One must only read the cryptic title to realize this theme of juxtaposition. Who is the “you” and the “I?” Could the statement be rephrased, “I think of another instance wherein you heard it,” or “When you heard it, I think of another time?” Neither of these possibilities clear much up, and only serve to highlight how the title is further muddled by its usage of both past and present.

One might be inclined to turn to the penultimate title track for answers: a spacious, broad soundscape which uses field recordings as a backdrop. Crickets chirp among other wild animals while water flows and indistinct voices speak. The tone feels at once nostalgic, peaceful, and chaotic, as ominous, out of tune string instruments ebb and flow. The instrumentation picks up around the samples of human voices, intertwining with them in glitchy crescendos.

The tone of the title track is reiterated throughout the album. Snippets of mundane conversations are interspersed with everyday sounds– memories, for Niyomkarn. In the notes she writes that the album is “a reconstruction of memories in my childhood home…I want to be able to remember it.” But the overlapping electronic sounds are anything but ordinary. They add a newness, an unfamiliarity.

Niyomkarn’s life experiences are reflected in the album. The recording sessions took place in two homes: Thailand and Belgium.  “ear crystals” was recorded as a response to vertigo. “You and Me in the Original Time” was recorded after the artist found out her childhood dog was ill. Yet the feelings imbued in the tracks are universal. Everyone knows the difficulty of being physically distant from loved ones, or the eerie brand of nostalgia felt upon returning home after many years– this cognitive dissonance of anxiety-laced comfort. Even the simple sounds of distant voices combined with crickets humming on a summer night evokes a certain feeling.

The more time one spends with the album, the more clearly the juxtapositions reveal themselves. Niyomkarn’s personal memories and experiences become at once the most supremely universal human experiences. The album has listeners step inside another’s subjectivity, but not without being forced to confront their own.

The title “I Think of Another Time When You Heard It” at first reads like a sort of mental puzzle– potentially incomprehensible. But listening to the album seems to implore listeners; does it matter who heard it? Niyomkarn is the one who heard the recorded sounds firsthand, yet each listener may think of another time. The album brings these juxtapositions to light, but also embodies their dissolution; maybe they are less contradictory than initially imagined. Subjectivity and objectivity, you and I, past and present end up being of lesser importance in the context of this album than the common and uniting emotions that emerge.  (Maya Merberg)

Liew Niyomkarn ~ I Think of Another Time When You Heard It