Hyunhye Seo, also known as Angela Seo, has been a member of the inscrutable experimental rock band Xiu Xiu since 2009 and provides synths, piano and vocals to concretize their consistently beguiling, unsettling sound. On her debut solo album Strands (Room40), Seo conjures up unease in a new way and swaps Xiu Xius’ unusual pop grotesques for two 18-minute pieces, one with ambience and the other with solo piano. “Strands I” secretly begins with a quiet, inconspicuous hum that grows slowly. The desolate atmosphere in the oscillating electronics of the track gives the constant feeling that we are all lonely and are forced to face our inner demons. The text that accompanies the album reinforces this cryptic feeling: Seo describes her strands of hair that appear everywhere and serve as an unpleasant reminder of unfortunate decisions and past selves. There are occasional moments of relative calm as the track progresses, with gongs and other percussions creating foggy drones, but any serenity is short-lived; The serpentine flow of the song ensures that no moment of consolation lasts long. “Strands II”, the piano piece, is even more scary. Its sweeping melodies feel like they’re constantly searching for an end, and they’re enveloped in just enough reverb to create a hazy, disorienting environment – a feeling that is intensified when piano notes become a cloud of dazedness Clink merge. Halfway through the track, Seo repeatedly taps a single key and lets it fade into nothing. After a pause, she moves on to passages that skillfully use the silence, in which the negative space creates just as much tension as her piano playing. The two parts on Strands are two sides of the same coin: Seo can capture the ominous with whatever tools she uses. v