Album review: China Expedisound Yunnan Province
On a couple of occasions, I’ve played tunes in the Secret Archives of the Vatican Podcast that came from a very interesting album, released by IOT Records in 2008, called Mongolia Expedisound. It’s a great compilation of transglobal electronica based on field recordings from Mongolia. The Expedisound project aims to increase awareness of the extraordinary cultural diversity of our times and to ‘aim the public’s attention toward some fragile ethnic groups living just beyond the frontier of rapid globalisation’.
They have now released a double CD compilation called China Expedisound Yunnan Province. The 11-track first disk features recordings of Baisha music from the Naxi people, an ethnic minority in South-West China’s Yunnan Province. The Naxi Bashaxili Traditional Orchestra‘s music is predomonantly flute-led, but there are also other stringed and bowed instruments in the mix along with vocals. If you’ve heard other traditional musical forms from China or South-East Asia, this will sound familiar to you. There is, of course, more information about all of this in the CD booklet.
The generous 18-track second disk, the electronic half of the equation, is where my interests lie. The pentatonic nature of most Chinese music makes it relatively easy for Western musicians to work with. As with the previous Mongolian album, we have a long list of artists taking the acoustic recordings and turning them into a superb selection of Hunnan-flavoured electronic explorations. The CD booklet says: ‘The soundbank’s materials were used in order to give them a second life through a recycling process while maintaining a respect for their origins’.
The booklet has lots of photographs from the trip and has text in French, English and Chinese. Most tracks remain fairly chilled, not straying too far from the tempos and melodies of the source material but there are subtle hints of dubstep, dub, drum’n’bass and even hiphop rising to the surface in places.
This is an excellent compilation and serves its purpose well; it introduces us to a traditional form of music (helping to preserve it) as well as providing us with some cutting-edge, creative electronica. I wish there were more record labels like IOT Records.
Released by: FULL RHIZOME / I.O.T Records
Release/catalogue number: 511CXPDS
Release date: 17 September 2012