by Olivier LaRoche
Ming + Zhizhi is the most recent venture from musical collective China Club, who started out as a duo from Dallas, Texas before expanding. Their internationally-influenced sound is put on display on this short but powerful gem that is the culmination of group efforts spanning from 2015 to 2019.
With its punchy industrial sound, this entrancing record makes every second of its modest twenty-one minute lifespan count. While it may seem short, the album profits from this brevity, offering songs that serve as small glimpses into different imaginary worlds. The group incorporates hints of jazz, drum n’ bass and traditional percussion from across the globe into their strange blend of techno and industrial, all while pulling from the art of plunderphonics to incorporate sampled dialogue and vocal passages across the track-list. These non-musical elements are essential to the atmosphere-building factor of the project, offering another dimension to the sound.
The lengthy period of time during which this work was produced is shown off in its variety. The abrasive, noisy drums of “Ka-Kui” stand out vividly after the more spaced out, smoother tracks “MVisage” and “Transition #2.” This suggests an evolution of the group’s ideas over the years, but they managed to capture the same dreamy, melancholic feel across all songs. As the Bandcamp page for the project rightfully states, their sound “fleeces textures from every fabric of time and space” and pulls you along for a wild ride.
As is the trend with music of this sort, so ripe with different sounds and rhythms that it demands your attention at all times, it is difficult to pinpoint what exact feature is at the source of this absolute captivation. It’s safe to assume that the ensemble of these qualities produces the effect, as they seem to work in perfect harmony to communicate the kind of oxymoronic energetic dreaminess this project inspires. This unique quality gives you the impression that you are within the music, inside its realm, rather than listening from the outside. After the twenty or so minutes are over, the voyage, wonder in its purest form, has ended.