Isolation plays a heavy theme in Zoon van snooK’s recent outpouring of oddtronica, ‘Se•pa•ra•ción‘. The LP shares separated, broken up pieces of the same story, like a fractured mirror. With “each song based around a differing idea of separation”, to paraphrase van snooK, the work encompasses periods in life that forge growing, through detailing loss, detachment, and complete isolation. Bizarrely enough, ‘Se•pa•ra•ción‘s release was right smack in the middle of a global health pandemic that has effected millions of lives and has forced many into solitary confinements of sorts. Perhaps despite the darkness and gravity of the situation we’re in, this is a needed respite for society. Isolation gives way to lengthy pauses of pondering, something that’s discouraged societally by worshipping busy time. What if we allowed ourselves more than mere minutes to delve into our thoughts? It’s a question some of us are finding the answer to, though sadly it’s still easily pushed off with our digital obsessions.

Upon first listening of ‘Se•pa•ra•ción‘ I felt a sense of ease, fully understood by a stranger, his piano, and field recordings. I was following my investigative dogs around my backyard, with phone in hand open to SoundCloud, when ‘The Coral & The Hummingbird’s first notes began. Simple at first, and then explorative of the sonic space and emptiness, oddly hopeful as well. The birds that had been tweeting in the trees surrounding me grew louder – I’d like to think because of van snooK’s track. Either way, it was comforting, although heightening my awareness of the isolation I had been empathetically feeling. I’m unsure if I’ve ever listened to an instrumental LP that seizes a single subject and expresses it’s core as well as ‘Se•pa•ra•ción‘ does. Now to explain a bit more about van snooK and the recording of the album..

Alec Snook, aka Zoon van snooK, is a Bristolian producer who’s known for mixing field recordings with electronics, keyboard, harp, lyre, ukulele, charango, and mbira instrumentation among others. He’s remixed tracks from artists such as Oddfellows Casino, Broadcast 2000, and Malachai to considerable acclaim. The Belgian-born composer stripped back his typical experimental shenanigans to around a half hour of pure solo piano for ‘Se•pa•ra•ción‘ , accompanied by field recordings taken in South and Central America in 2018 (a Peruvian quena played in the Andes, a Mayan flute bouncing off Mexican pyramids, a story shared in English from within Brazilian favelas).

Each listen of the album leads me in desire to highlight a different track than the time prior, practically begging me to describe every ten, though I won’t drag you, dear reader, down my tunnel of instrumental exaltation and I’ve chosen a few to single out aside from the aforementioned ‘The Coral & The Hummingbird‘. ‘¡Madre!‘, the third track, is a particular favorite as it begins and ends soothingly, sandwiching a building anxiety of longing and tightness of the heart. Quite emotive. Mingled within ‘Rocinha‘ are tidbits of the story shared in Brazilian favelas. “So no matter what, no one wants to listen to me.” Continuous separation. While the context of the verbal morsels is unclear, the listener is able to hear the man’s frustration and exasperation with the situation. ‘Rocinha‘ itself is a unique track that I’ve gone back to specifically. ‘Cusco‘ is the lead single off ‘Se•pa•ra•ción‘ and is a gentle but ever moving train, chugging on despite setbacks. There’s a steady march forward happening, but van snooK’s piano betrays the overwhelming nostalgia within.

Se•pa•ra•ción‘ was released on April 3rd via Lo Recordings and I highly recommend you listen for acknowledgement of this introspective time on earth and a much needed pause.

Sarah Medeiros