ZAFKA – Yong He

A few years ago, the first releases by Dajuin Yao’s Post Concrete imprint were remarkable proposals in the field of contemporary, and truly original, electronic/acousmatic music. After a long silence, Yao launched a sub-section of the label – Archival Vinyl – where the recent output can be downloaded for free. Pleasant surprises are in store for the snoopiest.

Yong He is an extremely mature and, in several moments, stunningly beautiful work by an artist whose name and music this writer had never met before. Treated reverberations of water and birds open the composition, entirely based on a subtle balance between environmental (preferably urban) emanations and transfixing electronic abnormalities. A smoggy figuration of cyclical electronics functions as the fire under a cauldron of both adult and young voices, the whole encircled by a background characterized by sounds and noises from a flea market, or whatever it may be. A seller’s chanting call becomes an essential element of the piece as the listener is subjugated by a veritable spell in mere minutes, crying toddlers and creaking loops surrounding us until puzzling echoes of what the ears identify, perhaps wrongly, as superimposed layers of shêng (the Japanese sho) lead to the next segment.

Obliquely unkind resonances enhance the coalescence, while another sexless voice seems to grieve over a failure and sing a lullaby at one and the same time, a moment of surreal enthralment rarely experienced in recent times by yours truly. Moaning inharmonious drones metamorphose the prospect into a landscape of rustling objects, engines and heaven-knows-what-else; this represents the preamble to an amazing section featuring a sweet little girl singing along a Chinese children song on the radio, apparently on a street given the blaring traffic’s interference. A cross of alienation and tenderness that acutely moved the grouchy reviewer, who’s still wondering why. Out of the blue, rarefied gongs and more birds welcome back on the pensive side of life: taped oddments of talking-and-chuckling elderly men remind of the great contrast – purity versus experience, early growth versus near death – which is the very axis of an existence that people keep investigating to no purpose, looking so foolish as so many points in their time are unavoidably flying away.

The ceaseless racket, a true metropolitan bellow, soon returns to save from the last illusion. We’re ultimately set free from the idea of an affected reconciliation with non-collaborative neighbouring beings. The winged creatures, the tolling of the bells, a coughing man, the heavy rain, a supposed civilization, nothingness, meaninglessness, futile words. Everything absurd yet existing, although destined to end sooner than later.

Yong He is an essential ingredient of 2008’s crème de la crème, an absolute work of art.

Post Concrete

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