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  • Nathan Yoder

Recommended Listening: Alexandra Spence - A Necessary Softness

A quick spotlight before we dive headlong into another crazy week.

Alexandra Spence, a globe-trekking Australian sound artist, released a pair of excellent performance pieces this past Friday. Tidewater and Bell, Fern are paired with Waves and Rain, respectively, and together, these tracks form A Necessary Softness.

A Necessary Softness explores two cities in which Spence has resided: Vancouver and Hong Kong. On Tidewater, Spence spends a bit of time explaining glacial movements and their role in shaping the Pacific Northwest. Personally speaking, as a someone who spent his adolescent summers maneuvering tractors around boulders in the Willamette Valley, I appreciated this geology lesson. Later in the 17-minute track, Spence describes the world's worst (or at least Vancouver's worst) tourist attraction. So really, on Tidewater, the listener gets a pretty balanced picture of all that Cascadia has to offer. This dialogue carries over a blend of drone and clattering field recordings - an exploration of curious sounds.

Then Bell, Fern opens with a hum before bells begin to chime, perhaps swaying in a gentle breeze. Woven dialogue once again builds before a distorted feedback loop drowns all else out, at least momentarily. Vocals eventually bubble back up a final time, just as a rainstorm approaches. So it seems that Hong Kong shares at least one meteorological similarity with Vancouver. Spence explains that the listener can actually begin listening to the cassette version of A Necessary Softness on either side, as "they exist in a kind of parallel/binary form." So if you are curious to experience this album for yourself, in either direction, you can find it here on Bandcamp, released through the ever-excellent Room40. Or, to learn more about Spence's multidisciplinary work, you can head to

DC has a good deal coming out across the next couple of weeks, but make sure to give some time to A Necessary Softness today. Hear a sample below, before another busy Monday takes your attention elsewhere.


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