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Review: Lauren Auder - 5 Songs For The Dysphoric

Vulnerability, trans experience and self-alienation: Camila Hernandez reviews Lauren Auder’s EP, 5 Songs For The Dysphoric.

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British-French songwriter Lauren Auder compiles experiences of intimacy and self-alienation in her compelling musical project 5 Songs For The Dysphoric. Auder writes and sings with an incredible vulnerability, encapsulating her story and experiences as a trans woman with soothing instrumentation, orchestral pop, and meditative symphonies. Auder’s music soothes the soul, invoking a certain kind of solace that leaves the listener basking in a feeling of safety and warmth as the speaker peels back the layers of her inner conflict in an outpour of reassurance.

Ominous distortions, swirling musical arrangements and haunting lyricism culminate in a beautiful ballad Auder calls ‘Animal’. The first single of her EP recounts images of Auder unpicking herself in a mirror, giving us an intimate insight into her internal world. The powerful mid-section of the song, “I’m not animal”, almost heightens to a battle-cry, or perhaps even a cold, scientific categorisation that addresses the experience of trans people of being unveiled and analysed, rather than being accepted as part of the ‘normal’ tapestry of  society. Auder’s sombre voice whispers as the music fades, “That’s not animal.” Her musical allure transcends from the boundaries of simple listening – it is capable of making its listener feel held. The conciseness and fluidity of ‘Animal’ embodies this very sense of an auditory embrace, its lyrics are soaked in a sweet solemnity which grasps the hand of anyone who has felt the need to “[live] with a mask”, and reassures them that they are not alone.

The proceeding track ‘Heathen’ is dripping with emotion and tension, interrogating the impulse “to be sincere” which stops the self from “beginning to unfold”. With its repetitions and orchestral refrains, Auder’s vulnerability is exposed with breathless vocals and a disjointed arpeggiated guitar that unapologetically translates the human psyche into sound. Auder is at war with herself, and it is beautifully jarring. As a song, ‘Heathen’ is about “longing for a test run before life proper. Learning to accept that all we get is a 9-month long bomb shelter before you’re very much in the world,” explains Auder, who has referred to the track as her personal favourite.

Another standout track, ‘Quiet’, is conducted in waves of oxymorons depicting lovers wishing to “[grow] big and mighty/Small and infinitely yours”. It is a track that is dissatisfied with its title; Auder insists “we could talk about it if you wanted to/ Cause we could cut it up, break it all down for you.” ‘Small Ghosts’ opens with a ­lullaby-like piano and Auder’s smooth baritone, before this all dissolves into white noise, outshined by echoing techno beats and kick drums. The chorus is spontaneous, feverish, and catalyses this abrupt change in its instrumental. Meanwhile, the lyrics retain the melancholia of the previous songs, “Such a long haunt from small ghosts/I’m sure you kept more than I felt/Any other life I’d know/I know.” In collaboration with Celeste, ‘Unseen’ provides a construction of Auder’s own self-deconstruction, conveying feelings of being “unseen” and “hardly yourself”, posing questions about what identity really means. The interplay of Celeste’s higher register and Auder’s sultry vocals is mesmerising. Ultimately, Auder seems to leave her questioning of herself as a paradox; perhaps this is a purposeful resistance to supplying an answer, in turn, encouraging her listeners to ponder – is feeling unseen what it means to not be yourself?

5 Songs For The Dysphoric is a project of and for humanity. The album is a perfect soundtrack for your late night walks, cold air hitting your face as Auder’s songs warm up your heart, telling you that it is okay to “ground [your]self firmly in who [you are] with all the reckoning that entails.”

To listen to 5 Songs For The Dysphoric click here

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