Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Impressions of 萨顶顶 and Her Album 万物生


You could hardly call 萨顶顶 (Sa Dingding) "indierock." She is neither indie - having recently signed with major label Universal - nor is she rock - being a fusion of electronic beats, traditional Chinese instruments and haunting vocals.

You could also point out that she is an extremely well packaged commodity. She has slick videos, her performances (those that can be seen on the web) are highly choreographed, and her photos are flawless (as she appears to be). The fact that she is described as being "telegenic" lends more credence to the notion of her packaged-ness.

That being said, I don't care. Since Saturday I have been listening to nothing but her album 万物生 (Alive). I think it is fantastic. I see no need to reinvent the wheel and invite you to read Glenn Watson's excellent and fair review of 万物生 over at Dimsum. I think he goes over the major positives and negatives of the album in what it sets out to achieve.

My own thoughts on some tracks:

I like both versions of the song 万物生 (Alive) but prefer the more sensual tones of the Mandarin Chinese version of the song. At the same time the Tibetan version is charming in its own right. I enjoy listening to each equally, I just like the Mandarin version slightly more for its tone in that I think it conveys the message and sentiment of the song more than the Tibetan does. I think for foreign ears the video helps explain the song more for the Tibetan version. In my mind 萨顶顶's voice is the only thing needed to explain the meaning of the song in the Mandarin version.

In 锡林河边的老人(自语) (Oldster by Xilin River [Self-Created Language]) 萨顶顶 delves into a space previously only inhabited by Sigur Rós and their imaginary tongue Hoplandic. 萨顶顶 claims her own language was "created based on buried memories of her grandmother talking to her as a baby and which, she claims, prompted hardened studio engineers to burst into tears when they heard it." [source] I don't know about all that but the visual of a baby and old woman is unmistakable in the song, and quite honestly, it is beautiful and one of the best tracks on the album.

One thing that annoys throughout are some of the electronic samples and such. They may not stand up and in fact remind me of some dated electronica from the early 90's (think Orbital - especially the theme to "The Saint") but I am completely enamored with 萨顶顶's voice. Even after after the umpteenth listen I find new things to like. I only wish that she had toned down on the beat box and put the focus on her voice.

This album is infinitely remixable. It would be great if William Orbit or Michael McCann (Behavior) were to work with 萨顶顶 on such a project or a future album (or maybe even Juno Reactor or Infected Mushroom). I suspect however that Universal will want her to work with some shitty American hip-hop producer so they can boost sales using name recognition by putting "featuring [insert hip-hop/rap/R&B artists' name here]" after the song name. Either way, a remix album would be great.

The Asian Björk (!/?)

Remix potential is about the only thing 萨顶顶 has in common with Björk and thus I don't think a fair comparison can be made between the two artists. For one thing before Björk was Björk she had KUKL, The Sugarcubes, and stuff in between. 萨顶顶 has exactly one album to her name (though I did find what looked like a collection of b-sides in a disc called 笑破了 (Broken Laughter) at that I would die to hear), is 25, and just beginning to make a name for herself. For the mainstream media to simply throw it out that she is the Asian (Read: Chinese) Björk simply because they have unique vocal abilities and come from countries that aren't the US or UK, and don't have English as their first language does a disservice to both artists.


I hope that 萨顶顶 isn't pushed too hard. She is too good and I hope the industry doesn't abuse her to burn out. Everything seems to be moving at break neck speed in China - the biggest buildings and cities, the biggest Olympics, the biggest economy - and I hope that 萨顶顶 isn't pushed harder than she needs to be pushed for her to be healthy AND the biggest Chinese music star. I hope she finds her own footing. It's taken Björk 31 years to get to where she is today. I have no idea what the stresses of being a signed artist are like but they must be tremendous. I would like to hear what 萨顶顶 will come out with next, see her mature as an artist, and watch grow into her voice. The media is right in that she could be one of Asia's pre-eminent talents - I just hope it doesn't come at the expense of the person herself.

Album Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sa Dingding - "Alive" and Amazing

It's been a while since I posted (Thank you to The Libertine for picking up the slack) and this post is about an amazing artist named Sa Dingding. She's 25 and her sound is nothing short of epic - in the sense of it sounding epic. Think "Lord of the Rings" visuals but with sound.

I am downloading her debut album - for the West - as I write this and will have a proper review in the next day or so. Maybe I am buying into the hype. I mean how many Chinese artists have I listened to? Answer: Besides Sa Dingding, Two. So we'll see. I don't want to get into the whole Tibet politics thing either. So don't bring it up unless you can somehow make it relevant to a discussion about her music.

Anyway, check out her myspace and webpage.

MySpace: Sa Dingding

Web Page


UPDATE: I found a good article at Shanghaiist about Sa Ding Ding.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I heart M83

Their new album is great. This song is definitely a standout track--graveyard girl.

Band to watch out of Brooklyn--Camphor

I really like this track. Play it loud on a good stereo and it has a certain cinematic feel to it. The track is called Castaway. Definitely a band to track.

Buy this band--Frightened Rabbit

These guys new album is the shit. They're called Frightened Rabbit. The album is called, The Midnight Organ Fight, and it FUCKING ROCKS. One of my favorite albums of this year so far.

Awesome new track--Yellotone, "Rye Road"

Crappy version of a great song.

YellotoneRye Road

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First Great Album of 2008-- A Weather "Cove"

Review forthcoming. Here's a youtube video of a song called The Feather Test. Its from a previous EP and its not even one of the best tracks on their new album. I placed it here because its the only thing I can find of theirs on YouTube. Their album Cove is fucking fantastic. Slow, brooding, a headphones album that is a true grower. Check out Spiders and Snakes and tell me its not haunting.

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