Chinese composer Jun Yan (1973) is one of the musicians of the laptop generation
who explores dthe convergence of
the noise-sculpting techniques that come from musique concrete
and the improvised techniques that come from jazz.
Improvisation in Shanghai (Kwan Yin, 2004) was a live collaboration among Yan (on electronics, sampling and field recordings), the duo Other Two Comrades (Huan Qing on kalimba and digital guitar and Chen Zhipeng on percussion) and the quartet Top Floor Circus.
Tie Guan Yin is a duo with Wu Quan devoted to live improvised music, documented on Viva La Vaches (Kwan Yin, 2006)
and Live at 798 Cubic Art Center (Kwan Yin, 2006).
They are lengthy creative sequences of artificial sounds,
concrete symphonies that can range from quasi-silence to ear-splitting cacophony.
Impossible Live at Thinker Cafe 2003 (Sub Jam, 2006) documents a live improvisation with "Fm3" and Wu Quan.
Jun also formed Pisces Iscariots with Dajuin Yao and Li Jianhong.
Live At 2pi Festival 2004 (Sub Jam, 2006) documents one of their live shows, a continuous 44-minute performance: a cold wind that slowly emerges from
lava floods is interrupted by samples of conversations and atonal instruments.
Music For Listening On The Moon (Subjam, 2011) was Jun's version of cosmic and ambient music, an intelligent update for the new century of the electronica from 1970s.
Yan also played in the
Tea Rockers Quintet, a supergroup featuring
vocalist Xiao He,
guqin zither player Wu Na and
multi-instrumentalist Li Daiguo, and first documented on
Ceremony (EnT-T, 2012), ostensibly
an eight-step version of the tea ceremony, led by tea master Lao Gu.
After the overture of quasi silence (One,
the languid notes of the zither originate a bit of counterpoint and lively
strumming in Two. The lazy plucking is disrupted in
Three by shamanic howls, baredy audible electronic drones and
trancey percussion, creating an effect more akin to psychedelic music than
to classical Chinese music, and the whole rises to a clownish frenzy in
what is one of the most cryptic gestures of the album.
Four restarts from nothingness: the sound of a drop ticking in a cave,
to which the zither responds with erratic plucking and the singer with
Despite the virtuoso skills of each player, the quintet's specialty is to
assemble sounds as if they were precious jewels, one at a time, and never
crowd them in narrow spaces, never layer them on top of each other. That's
what Seven does. It almost feels like an antidote to the dense
multilayered arrangements that had become popular in rock music.
All these pieces evoke states of mind rather than actual actions of a ceremony.
That changes with the last piece, Eight, where the strings intone a sort
of ballet and the singer's guttural sounds float around them. Suddenly this
becomes a full-fledged folk dance, but this too quickly disappears in a sea
of electronic nothingness.
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