On The Wide Alley Brisbane duo Clocked Out are joined by a host of Australian and Chinese instrumentalists to make up a tentet. The concept developed over a ten year period, folliwng an initial invitation from composer Zou Xiangping to visit Chengdu in Sichuan Province. The music reflects the changes to the city the group witnessed over that time, “old buildings replaced by high-rises, local ‘Xiao Chi’ cafes turned to Western fast food outlets, and traditional music forms fallen in neglect.” Consequently The Wide Alley functions as something of a preservation society, exploring local folk forms and the Sichuan Opera tradition, spinning off into numerous experimental tangents.
‘The Way’ leads us in through the group’s most focused fusion of East-West forms. With the justling percussion and upfront bass of contemporary post-rock / jazz fusion alongside patient diatonic riffs played on bamboo flutes and brass, ‘The Way’ would be well-suited to an ECM release. ‘Di Da Kwa’ opens with clean piano and horns before splattery male vocals recall the Ketchak monkey chant of Indonesia. Elsewhere Chinese traditional forms dominate, mournful erhu lines supporting the intriguing voice of soloist Tian Linping, who can break the hearts of both men and cats – as she slides from a sigh to a purr – in a single line.