Sui Zhen’s vocals are an acquired taste and I know of many who find them cloying. I’m happy to say that years of Japanese naif-pop have helped me to acquire the taste and I love hearing the multiple contexts within which she can work across her various projects. This duo EP with Andras Fox finds her cooing over Fox’s delicate, detailed bed of scratchy jazz samples. There’s a passing resemblance to classic trip-hop, but from the days when that genre could be ghostly rather than just smooth.
While, individually, elements might resemble laid-back lounge, the fact that most of those sounds are clearly sourced from very well used vinyl versions gives them a different edge. The rise and fall of the accompanying static often becomes rhythmic in its looped repetition. These are then laid over field recordings of oceans and fields at night, the samples and soundworks highlighting each other through their juxtaposed contrast. Electronic blips round out the soundscape, creating a post-modern sound that can’t be placed in the 50s, 70s, 90s or 21st century, despite carrying characteristics of each.
And then, a quarter of an hour later, it’s all over. The delicate, late night mood is gone. Following on from Sui Zhen’s excellent solo album from earlier in the year, it shows her as an artist on a roll and one who can also choose the right collaborators in order to not simply repeat herself. Fox’s song structures and production ensures that this is music that Zhen would not naturally create on her own – a fine collaboration between artists standing on equal footing and bringing their own strengths to the music.