AMN Reviews: 梁奕源 Liang YiYuan – Those That Die In A Dream. A Twenty Years Retrospective (2022; Unexplained Sounds Group)

Liang YiYuan combines ambient and traditional Chinese music in this compelling collection of his recordings from the last 20 years. He largely employs stringed instruments, such as guitar, yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer), violin, and guqin (a four-octave stringed instrument), as well as the bawu (Chinese clarinet). The tracks hereon are solo improvisations with assistance from effects. The pieces bounce around a spectrum of experimentalism from soft drones to discordant noise across 70 minutes.

The title track kicks things off with sawing of a string instrument (violin or guqin, most likely) accompanied by synth layers in the background. Flying Birds are Ominous has a similar sound and feel. Other tracks take the album in different directions, such as the twisted – almost psychedelic – guitar work on Overdraft Twilight Years. Along those lines, Hallucinogen of Imagined Bodhi-III is an amalgam of slow-moving, staccato synth lines that evolve into dense and ominous layered drones over the course of 16 minutes.

Another more outside offering, The Confucian Pleasure Puppet, employs multitracked free improv on the bawu, resulting in a modestly Eastern feel. The Dream of Sunshine turns up the weirdness with plucked strings, snoring noises, wailing vocalizations, and a short post-industrial rhythmic crescendo.

In sum, this compilation shines much-needed light on an artist who is largely unknown outside of China. Hopefully, this will not be the last we hear from Liang YiYuan in this hemisphere.

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