Sannhet - So Numb: Exclusive Album Stream

Brooklyn based experimental instrumental trio stream their third album So Numb exclusively with The Independent

Remfry Dedman
Monday 21 August 2017 14:10
Sannhet, from left to right, John Refano
Sannhet, from left to right, John Refano

So Numb, the third album by experimental instrumental three-piece Sannhet is a nine track meditation on life’s imperfect escapes that encompasses themes of addiction, mental health and philosophy. The album is shrouded with a sense of dark foreboding but interlaced within the melancholy and dread is an uplifting, euphoric ambience that pokes fleetingly through the dark clouds. Formed in 2010, the band’s sound is an unusual hybrid of post-rock, black-metal and math but distilling their sound down to just one of these elements would be a disservice. Whilst the band don’t write lyrics, they do write subtexts, penning love letters, extended epistles, and suicide notes, all without words. So Numb is released on 25th August through Code 7/Profound Lore, but you can stream their record in its entirety four days before official release below.

Despite being instrumental, Sannhet’s albums have a strong narrative theme that runs throughout them and So Numb is no exception, telling a story of destruction, redemption, existentialism and ennui. All three members of the band, guitarist John Refano, drummer Christopher Todd and bassist AJ Annunziata, have been working through mental health issues since the band’s formation and So Numb chronicles the darkness as well as marking the moment of enlightenment and reparation. 'It's interesting when you don't have any kind of perspective or emotional language to identify what's going on inside of yourself or in your relationships’ says AJ. ‘I think when we all met, we were pretty ignorant to that and that resulted in us fighting a lot. I was going through a very weird toxic relationship, which was leading me to get what Carl Jung calls 'the shadow'’.

In Jungian psychology, the shadow refers to the least desirable aspects of human nature, consisting predominantly of primitive emotions and impulses such as sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy and anger. They are elements of ourselves that we tend to reject and consequently, the shadow resides in the unconscious. Jung argues that to know yourself, you must embrace your dark side. AJ describes the shadow as 'when you're told that your true self is not acceptable or you're told the things that you are doing are not valid. I had this kind of relationship with my partner at the time, we just didn't like each other anymore, we were unhappy in our relationship and her defense mechanism was to try and control, whereas my defense mechanism was escape. Unfortunately, my escapism manifested itself in the form of substance abuse and chasing women. I couldn't be myself around her, it was as if I was leading a double life. I would get into these really dark depraved spaces in my head and everything became amplified but after a while the drugs stopped working as a form of escape for me. That’s when you become really f**ked and alone with your thoughts with no rational pragmatic tools to deal with them.’

The turning point came after a moment of calamity; AJ’s substance abuse got so out of hand he started having what he was convinced was a heart attack. A visit to his doctor revealed that in fact there was nothing wrong with his heart and he had actually endured a panic attack. The course of treatment prescribed was therapy and slowly but surely AJ began to work through his struggles and addictions. ‘You don't realise that you're in the dark until somebody turns on the light’ he says. ‘After talking through my problems, I became aware just how much of my life was escapism. Knowledge of the problem doesn't absolve you, it just makes you more aware of it. All three of us recently started working on our own mental health and we're now just coming up for air. When I listen to this record I hear a lot of that growth, but I hear a lot of the failure that brought me to that growth and I know that Chris and John do to. We’ve all had these situations which we weren't really dealing with and we were all escaping in various different ways and the themes in the music on So Numb are observations of the three of us in that space.'

Psychosocial motifs are also prevalent in the album’s artwork, a black and white photograph of a mother shielding her son’s eyes with her hands. Though the intentions are pure, her attempts to ward off the dangers of the world from the child inadvertently create a false sense of safety and as a result, he seeks solace and escape in temporary solutions. ‘Another theme within that school of psychology is this idea of this original wound’ AJ explains. ‘The mother is trying to protect her son but she's actually suffocating the child and preventing him from growing with the tools he needs to get through life. The idea is we all carry this original wound and there's a moment of impact at an early stage of our lives. The cover image is meant to represent the advent of that moment where the child receives that original wound. Those foundational ideas, the idea of original wounds, escapism and one leading to the other, is really what we explored on this record as we were all going through our own awakenings.’

Whilst the themes of the record are very clear to the three members of Sannhet, they’re smart enough to realise that the most vivid interpretation of their music will be in the mind of the listener. ‘We want to give you just a little bit of a breadcrumb and then you find your own way’ AJ explains. ‘A lot of people listen to this record and they hear triumph and majesty but what I hear is intense f**king dread and misery because I am living those moments. The reason we don't use any lyrics is because it's all meant to be interpretive; the name of the band Sannhet is a Norwegian word for truth but in their version of it, truth is not an absolute, it's open to interpretation. We love that idea, so when you listen to our music, it's a mirror where you see what you want to see. So I hope that people listen to it and feel triumphant; I know that when I hear it, I hear all the terrible things that I had to do to get to where I am and the people that have been affected by my actions. It was painful writing this record with John and Chris because we were all going through s**t at the same time.’

Sannhet utilise projections and visual effects in their live show to create an experience far more engaging than the majority of instrumental bands who stare transfixed to their feet and pedal boards. Whilst it is a collaborative process between all three members, visual ideas usually spring from the mind of AJ, with the other two refining them. Of the vivid and unusual visuals, AJ says ‘I was thinking about how everybody watches the singer or the guitar player and they want to connect with that artist. I wanted the viewer to disassociate themselves from the people that were playing on stage and try to associate more with themselves. We're abstracting the idea of us as musicians and putting the user more into their own sensory deprivation where they are experiencing the music visually and viscerally. For the most part, we're playing in the dark with these projections obscuring our identities, so we used to use a lot of things like static to create a sort of topographical map of us onstage. It doesn't look like all that much on its own but projected onto somebody, it creates this weird camouflage that removes the performers from the performance.’

With any luck, So Numb will be the catalyst for the band to be able to tour their live show around the world, as few outside the US have seen their distinctive visual aesthetic live. For the moment, the record is a powerful representation of the band’s internal conflicts, the original wound, self-destruction and the redemptive qualities they continue to seek for the rest of their lives. ‘I feel like it'll be a life long journey for all of us but I think a band like ours will always explore this kind of dark space and will always be championing redemption. A lot of our songs, whilst they are dark, have an undertone of the beauty that we see in that darkness. The same could be said for somebody you're giving a second chance. That atonement is the idea we’re trying to touch on.’

So Numb is released on 25th August through Code 7/Profound Lore and is available to pre-order now

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