Los Angeles-based audiovisual artist Nicholas Zhu has spent the last three years creating sound installations and online sound pieces under the alias bod [包家巷], primarily constructing his productions from manipulated piano and voice elements, overlaid with field recordings and elements ripped from soundtracks. This third album ‘The Recurrence of Infections [复发感染]’ arrives on Aisha Devi’s Danse Noire label and sees Zhu crafting a collection of four tracks that conceptualise “the quiet hours of laborious coping that falls into the areas between work and sleep.”
Whatever the impetus, there’s certainly an unsettled feel to the expansive title track, which stretches out to almost 38 minutes in length. Things open in distinctly ambient territory as sweetly pitchbent vocal harmonies shift and fold against phasing synths, the more glacial electronics giving way to elegant classical piano arrangements as whispered spoken vocals add an undertone of introspective menace.There’s a almost bipolar sense of restlessness as pummelling kickdrums suddenly lock in like thudding jackhammers, only to suddenly be replaced by feathery shamisen plucks, shortly before the entire track descends into a wall of overdriven noise.
In many senses the aforementioned track is the main event here, with ‘Infection Supplement [感染补充]’ living up to its billing here as a bonus track, coming across as a more condensed reworking of the original track that tosses in additional layers of bubbling synths and skittering glitchy rhythms, the distinctly addled spoken vocals that lurch into the forefront against rattling kettle drums towards the track’s second half representing one of this album’s most curious moments.
Elsewhere, Flora Yin-Wong’s reworking of the same track opts for a more gentle approach sending delicate harp-like melodic textures fluttering over an ominous backdrop of droning chords, digitally contorted glitches and wordless vocals, before M.D. James’ remix deconstructs thing entirely, looping the original piano chords into rolling melodic tones, before a background swell of synthesised orchestration signals a venture out into minimalistic waters a slow guitar bends stretch out into the ether. Alternatively desolate and then teeming with textural activity, this album is well worth investigation.