5 is a 4 track EP composed by surasshu, a deeply personal work that deals with the death of his mother to cancer 10 years ago. This project represents a therapeutic approach to his feelings, both good and bad, and an attempt to express it in music.
On 5, surasshu wrote a song for each of four stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression), in his signature IT-tracked chiptune style. The 5th stage, acceptance, is still in the future.
Previously, among other Ubiktune works, surasshu was featured on The Black Box, a collaborative piano-chip album with his partner, aivi tran, and on the PC-98 tribute album, Tree of Knowledge, with his friend coda.
As told by surasshu:
My mom died June 24th, 2010.
Her breast cancer, that we thought had been cleared by surgery, chemo and other treatments some 10 years prior, came back. She underwent more chemo treatment at that time, but it was ineffective, so after a while, she decided she would rather live and enjoy the remaining time, than try to fight a losing battle with cancer.
This EP is intended for me to face my mother's death, which I never confronted properly or resolved my feelings on. The four track represent the 4 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression), with the 5th stage, "acceptance", being reached through the completion of this EP. In writing this, I also want to express my feelings as clearly as possible, in hopes of turning them around in my mind.
“Lost” represents my initial feelings of disbelief, and even hope that somehow, this was not actual reality. This combined with bargaining, a feeling that something could change, to keep my mom from dying. Eventually looping in on itself, and ending up in the same place where I started: there's no escape. This song also has some hints of Radiohead's style of composition, one of my mom's favorite bands.
My mom's breast cancer went undiagnosed by doctors who should have known better. Stasis is about the anger I felt and still feel towards those who were supposed to protect her health, who let her down.
When she found a lump, she went to our GP, who suggested waiting for a national health check. This was the first mistake: if you have a symptom, don't rely on a national health check--because this is intended for people with no symptoms. Whatever happened there, they missed the (very obvious, even to a layperson) tumor that was visible in the scans. This is a major reason why the initial response to her cancer was delayed, which allowed it to spread. I have never quite gotten over this--and it's hard to imagine ever feeling OK with it.
I wanted to capture that feeling with the slow, relentless drive of this song and the aggressive bassline, keeping in mind the seething energy of something like Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name Of".
During the last few months, I was able to spend a lot of time at home, with her and my father, doing things like taking trips to the countryside, and going through all our old photobooks.
During this time (and afterwards as well), I reflected a lot on the fact that in some ways, I was lucky to be able to spend this time with her, resolving any issues we might have and enjoying each other's company until the very end. And for as young as she was dying, at least she was able to see me grow up and become what I wanted to be: a composer. Then again, she never saw me really thrive, not to mention she missed out on meeting Aivi and now my son.
Thoughts like these spiral out of control very quickly, which is what the switching meters, sections and solos of this track try to represent. I wanted to create a sense of overwhelming.
The ending of the track is my first glimpse of something close to acceptance (incidentally, the codename for this project before I renamed it "5" was "acceptance"), realizing the good times and the good upbringing I have had, and in a way coming to terms with everything coming to an end sooner or later.
Depression was never a big part of my response to how my mom died. I think it's because I was "distracted" in a way, by the other feelings swirling around me. In that sense, this slow evolving loop feels like a holding pattern that should land on something revelatory, but never does.
Lately, I do think I've been finding myself in this mindset more, and my hope to find a solution was the initial drive towards making this EP in the first place. I'm currently in therapy for the first time in my life, among other things to try to deal with these feelings.
Thank you so much for listening.