We've updated our Terms of Use. You can review the changes here.

Free Thinker

by Ellen Phan

  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      $7 USD  or more


  • Cassette + Digital Album

    Professionally duplicated purple audio cassette. Edition of 75.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Free Thinker via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 3 days
    edition of 75 

      $8 USD or more 


  • Free Thinker Box Set

    Contents include:
    - Free Thinker cassette
    - Hand-crafted clearing spray
    - Jin Xuan oolong

    Special box set ritual:

    This practice empowers you to release and clear stagnant energy using the tea, spray, and cassette.

    - Prepare the tea, as it steeps, place the cassette in a cassette player
    - Set the intention of what you would like to release - check with your internal map of thoughts/feelings/emotions
    - What is coming up for you? Scan your body to check for tightness/tension
    - Sip the tea, press play, and spray the clearing spray around your Crown Chakra
    - Breathe deeply, close your eyes, and relax your body
    - Allow the music to facilitate the release of energies that no longer serve you

    *The small batch, hand-crafted clearing sprays are made with special healing water and purifying essential oils (Lavender + Sage). The Obsidian crystals transmute and reflect negative energy away from the user. These sprays have been charged under several Full Moons to amplify the detached state of letting go.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Free Thinker via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ... more

    Sold Out

Awareness 02:24
Empowerment 02:56
Deepening 01:15
Expansion 03:43
Transform 06:13
Clearing 01:08
Empathy 00:34


At what point in the history of experimental music did the closed work-form make a reappearance and in the process reassert its status as a natural characteristic of a composition? The closed work-form puts forward a vision of the Artist-as-Resolver – a presenter of solutions to the myriad contradictions and conundrums that exist between the work of art and the world, the work of art and the self. It presents and seeks order, civility, a measured response to chaos and contingency. It’s a surprising position to take particularly at this conjuncture, when the very seams of the world feel about ready to give out.

The closed work-form envisions a subject-position for the composer that is at odds with the forms of subjectivity historically posited by the avant-garde. It is a music necessarily composed by a Mr. Subject-In-Control, by an “I [that] insists it is not the Other, not the world… [which] is of course the home terrain of the Classical Modern Subject – the ‘defensive listener’...” (Destruction Beyond Death, Bill Dietz). What does the reassertion of this subject-position say about this particular musical moment? Is it not symptomatic of a regression that this subject has found itself an advocate in contemporary experimental music, a music whose drive should be oriented toward the very transformation and re-ordering of the subject?

Enter Ellen Phan’s Free Thinker, a work whose very substance is a series of impossibilities and irresolutions. Despite one of the piece’s component parts being a set of nine meticulous recordings, the work is not contained solely in these sounding elements! What are we to make of the track titles which bring to mind the affective space of contemporary holistic therapies when coupled with a blisteringly abstract music? What are we to make of the clearing spray when emitted over Shepard Tones and Sample and Hold circuits, sounds that conjure the first ghosts of computer music? And what about the tea pouch? Should we drink the tea as we listen or does the pouch suggest a closing ritual of our own devising, a moment in which to say goodbye to something worked through over the course of our listening? Free Thinker leaves us with no answers, only more questions – each one stranger, funnier, and more puzzling than the last. The strength of this music is that it posits a work that is multifarious, contradictory, and open. It suggests that perhaps it is the responsibility of the artist to be receptive to the fact of irresolution and to act from this position, our position, of contradiction. I am reminded of some words from Bill Dietz that feel pertinent, that could be a description of Ellen Phan’s free thinking. It is a type of thinking, which is a type of composing, that:

“draw[s] the outlines of a subject-position that can authentically conceive of its own problem status… which would be a rhetorical shift along the lines of saying that the work of ‘experimentation’ remains crucial, but is no longer understood as oriented toward a solution, & instead toward a fundamental recognition of the crisis of oneself as or in the world,” (Destruction Beyond Death, Bill Dietz).

- Dominic Coles


released June 16, 2023

Written and recorded in Los Angeles 2019-2020

Music by Ellen Phan
Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi
Artwork by Arnau Sala Saez
Text by Dominic Coles


all rights reserved



Nada Minneapolis, Minnesota

Nada was established in 2011 as a medium for publishing and distributing subversive musics and sound works.

contact / help

Contact Nada

Streaming and
Download help

Redeem code

Report this album or account

If you like Free Thinker, you may also like: