The merger of traditional zither and modern technology.
Music in Exile is a music label based in Melbourne, Australia is a not for profit label that showcases music from migrant and refugee communities to Australia. Mindy Meng Wang is a Chinese Australian and she teamed up with Tim Shiel to create a bombastic EP. ‘Nervous Energy’ showcases the 21 string guzheng in a beautiful way.
‘Sleeping Tiger On The Bund’ opens the EP with luxurious unfurling guzheng over huge drums and electronica elements. It borrows heavily from house music with vocal snippets and Tim Shiel’s usual chopping and layering of samples. It is Mindy Meng Wang who dazzles you with her skills though. No matter how manipulated the sounds are, she is a master of the guzheng. Possibly my favourite track is ‘Body of Water (What is Love)’. It takes the guzheng and places it bullishly with an underground jungle beat that feels Chinese but clubby too. As more synths support the guzheng, is feels like a pooling and draining of energy and sound in a beautiful and vibrant way.
‘Hidden Qi’ balances mysterious melodies from Mindy with a clean and clear hip-hop beat from Tim. It is the most minimal piece on the EP but still holds a groove and a story to it. Old keyboards and layers of string bends and Chinese woodwind merge together to create something that feels current but tinged with 70’s psychedelia too. The EP closes with the majestic ‘My love Is Not What It Was’. Here, a downtempo beat lets the low end of the guzheng brood. The strings resonance rings out as bass tones that rumble and when paired with clicky shaker drums and vocal snippets, things feel dramatic. This all climaxes with a Lamb-esque finale of breakbeats which ends the EP satisfyingly.
Mindy Meng Wang and Tim Shiel have created a sonically impressive, immersive and vibrant collaboration here. ‘Nervous Energy’ feels like a real merger of two worlds – traditional and electronica – into something fluid and emotive. I hope this EP isn’t just a one off as I think there is a goldmine of musical opportunity to explore here. They just work so well together, it’d be a shame to stop here. Pick this up if you love zithers, harps, world music or abstract electronica – you’ll have a blast.
Recommended track: Body of Water (What is Love)
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