Published Dec 06, 2018Having replaced the onslaught of sharp edges that made up Limpid Fear with more dulcet tones and vocals, Nicholas Zhu has delivered a bod recording that can fairly be described as approachable. Perhaps even welcoming.
That is not meant to be a knock on Limpid Fear. Quite the contrary — its collage of avant-garde and other found sounds was one of this year's more beautiful messes. Zhu demonstrated not just advanced editing skills, he communicated an impressive vision that this new release expands upon.
What sets this one apart is its focus on "the quiet hours … between work and sleep." As that quote from the release's notes suggests, Zhu pulls from a decidedly late-night sound palette. Gently played piano combines with various ambient sounds. The aforementioned vocals — sometimes sung, other times spoken — are downright soothing, mostly.
The album's title track stretches almost 38 minutes and predictably, given its length, Zhu covers a lot of ground. But for all its range, the piece never feels disjointed or meandering. This is no small accomplishment given that certain segments are really quite jarring.
"Infection Supplement" follows in largely the same vein. At its centre is a spoken-word (or more accurately whispered) section — presumably Zhu's voice — paired with dated-sounding electronics. "This is where waiting begins," he reads. "Naked in my room alone. This is where sorrow begins. Desperate, breathing fast. This is where panic begins." Given all that's come before it, we're inclined to be more empathetic than disturbed.
The album wraps with two short remixes of "The Recurrence of Infections," one by Flora Yin-Wong and the other by M.D. James. Both add colour to the package without departing from Zhu's original. They also emphasize the plural reference in the album's title.
This isn't everyone's idea of a relaxing late-night listen. But there's no denying that Zhu is emerging as an important digital artist. (Danse Noire)