Saturday, April 13, 2013

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Whatever you imagined about Chinese music, put it aside for this stunning compilation that captures China today. Yes, there's a brief (and actually very listenable) snippet of Chinese opera, but much of this is decidedly contemporary, whether it's the endearing, broken English semi-punk of Hang on the Box, or the simply otherworldly, captivating music of Urna. And to hear Tse Chun Yan on the qin, a type of zither, is to understand the possibilities of the instrument. The Chinese-German band, Wu Xing, offer plenty of space in their track, with a singing style that bridges the gap between classical and contemporary music. Following it with a classic cinema song from the pre-Communist era makes for a surreal juxtaposition, but still splendid, like walking farther and farther into an unknown but enchanting forest. While Chinese pop has often received a bad rap, the examples here show a very creative side, whether it's the atmospheric, building sound of Tats Lau, the rocker Cui Jian, or Ai Jing's classic "My 1997," which caused a controversy on its release in 1992. Put everything together here, even the intelligent new age of Kin Taii, and you have what's possibly the most persuasive -- and certainly the most accessible -- compilation of Chinese music available in the West.


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