drums electronica music percussion review

Ian Chang – “Spiritual Leader” Review

When drums try to be keyboards
Ian Chang
Ian Chang

Making music as a percussionist first and foremost is difficult. Rhythm often creates the backbone of a track, but usually requires the body of other instruments to become a fully whole piece of work. Ian Chang, the percussionist that joined the fabulous Son Lux, has ventured into percussion first music and his first EP is an experimental one that nods to his past, but also to his skills too.

“Inhaler” is wonderfully bizarre. The track is led by a vocal distortion that seems to react to a hidden beat, so that when it’s hit, the sample changes its pitch and filter to create a fuzzy weird drowning scream. Over that percussion causes a breathing in and out phasing switch and its all quite avant-garde – in a good way. “Romeo” is sharper, darker and like a modern-day film noir. The rubbery bass line runs through lots of percussive samples as the track slowly distorts and gets more frantic and fragmented. It’s a create sci-fi mood piece that you could freak out too in a chase down a dark alley. “ASMR” on the other hand brings in small every day sound samples, like the noise phenomena suggests and brings them close to your ears. Whilst it’s too melodic perhaps to give you the tingles ASMR videos may do, it’s Chang’s Vespertine moment on the EP and its most atmospheric moment. “古箏” follows as a more meditative spiral of singular notes and hand noises that create an isolating empty feeling. It is very much sisters with “Quarry” that takes similar tones, voices and a completely a-tonal approach to having no real melody or chord structure. It’s simply a statement of repetition and mood moments. It’s the tone-less approach from tracks 3, 4 and 5 that makes the more explosive and jarring “Spiritual Leader” all the more powerful. It’s focus on big is best makes for a bombastic sample smashing session and as there’s actually some melodic structure in places, it almost feels like a blooming.

Ian Chang’s debut EP is a difficult sell. It’s unique sample selection creates a mood, rather than a tune, and whilst Ian’s busy triggering all these samples like a percussionist, not once do you feel like he is stretching his drumming ability because most of the songs feel like they are paced the same. Yet, because of that pace structure, it also holds your attention because of its meditative sound palette. If you come for percussive ambience, you’ll find a lot to like here – but if you need a melody to keep your attention, this will be your idea of hell on ears.

Recommended Track : Romeo

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