Shadow of a Shadow by Cyanching

Cyanching | Shadow of a Shadow
Bezirk Tapes (CS/DL)

From London-based Taiwanese composer Cyanching comes an ear-catching debut. Her work, at least at first, comes off subtle with a shroud of harmony slowly emerging from a quiet space. Perhaps Shadow of a Shadow is the sonoric equivalent to mise en abîme, as it transmits what sound to be underwater algorithms with a wake and a whisper. The effect of the title work, which runs nearly twenty-seven minutes, is as unsettling as it is affirming. There are equivalents of the action and its mirror effect everywhere, especially in the most shallow tones, which are stunning.

Ambient music with exploratory, speculative and, at times, somewhat ancestral edges. The repetition of certain synth runs brainwashes as the balmy light-touch percussion keeps the listener grounded. This just may be my favorite tape I’ve heard all MMXIX long – likely because of its deft hand in balancing soft tones with rousing lil’ flairs of noise and other truly unexpected effects. The last record that made me feel this way, literally, was Jim O’ Rourke’s masterpiece Terminal Pharmacy (1995, Tzadik Records) — compare and contrast people, trust!

“Taiwan lives in the shadow of a shadow,” she explains. “A history of invasion and cultural combination. I deliberately used the widest mix of frequencies and textures I could, to reflect the different ideologies in Taiwan. The pulses that go in and out of phase in the album are meant to capture the hope that ultimately, we’re all eventually heading in the same direction, towards the same goal.”

I’ve easily fallen into the acoustic trap (albeit dramatized in my own head) to the fluttering pulsations, the buzz guitar crashes, and the collected ambient glow of contained chaos – as well as the culmination of more influences than I care to mention (ie: from Tangerine Dream to KK Null to Sonic Youth and back again). Never too much over-the-top noise, but once you are settled, expect to be nudged back upright. Towards the end of this engaging work is an intensely shivering sonic center that are dreamlike gears that quicken and part until the end.

The remainder of the record completes itself with a three-part set: I Fermentation, II Invasion, Massacre, Brainwash, and III Elinimation. This exists in a chamber with a metallic resonance, and plenty of ttactile, scratchy phonics. It’s almost as horses race through, steady and forceful hooves on pavement as rainsticks’ tiny stones gush briefly and other harmonic tones are gently overlayed and toyed with. This trio of tracks are each actions unto themselves, and Cyanching’s choralling of samples and incidental noise is expert by way of timbre, construction and vibrance – no second is wasted in terms of invoking a mood that triggers the imagination.

The ghost in the machine is set free.

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