Saun Santipreecha - Dandelye (Album Review)

LA-based Thai musician Saun Santipreecha knows about dichotomies. His recent album "Dandelye" juxtaposes surreal ambient soundscapes with mysterious musical structures across six tracks of sprawling scope. Dandelye is an anglicized form of the Thai word for 'dandelion', a flower seen as a weed in LA but rare in Santipreecha's native Thailand. This semantic subjectivity has inspired music that, like the flower, can be viewed as either disturbing or beautiful, depending on how you approach it.

The opening track "Seeds Across An Ashen Sky" gently unfolds through minimal piano, eerie atmospherics, and splices of sound art. Santipreecha isn't afraid of pulverizing any sense of rhythm and leads the listener through endless corridors of ominous synths, wordless vocalizations, chopped-up field recordings, and exotic but disconcerting textures. This sense of unease is also found in "Conjoined Time," the static pulses and rain drip rhythms of which offset a foreboding, often seducing piano. "Among Broken Sculptures" is a more overtly sinister track, with thrillingly wordless breaths, disorienting pads, and sci-fi horror robotics. Oftentimes on "Dandelye", one finds oneself on the receiving end of a viscerally intense barrage of stimuli. The feeling this produces is hard to pinpoint with words but is like watching a psychological thriller that slowly twists your gut, as opposed to a slasher horror that only aims to shock and disturb. Santipreecha has no desire to scare his audience; these compositions merely allude to dread. Overall, there is a contagious sense of wonder. For example, "Rain Dance" is a spacious track with a roving piano traversing across fertile landscapes where dangers lurk behind the thick blanket of water sounds, tape hiss, and performative piano strikes. 

The title track, "Dandelye", connects obscure computerized glitches to a cosmic wall of sound with a bridge of minimal piano. There is a sense of wandering in this collection, as though Santipreecha constantly explores his inner world by creating microcosms within these abstract confines of sound. It is undoubtedly fantastic in its otherworldliness and ambition. Yet, it is purposefully challenging, and a seasoned taste is required. "Weeds Along A Tunnel's Edge" shows Santipreecha decorating a beguiling neoclassical piano with footsteps and spluttered electronics to create the album's most accessible and impactful track. 

"Dandelye" is an illuminating collection, yet it's hard to know if this is sound art posing as music or music posing as sound art. Perhaps it exits in that sweet spot that straddles the two. Nevertheless, Santipreecha is aware of the power of art, no matter the format, and has no problem using that power to challenge himself and his audience with this sonically accomplished collection.