Sunday, February 24, 2013

David Shea - Hsi-Yu Chi (1996)

Another interesting release as part of the Composer Series on John Zorn's Tzadik label. The album itself is intended as the soundtrack for an imaginary film, similar to Boris' Sound Track from Film "Mabuta no Ura" Hsi-Yu Chi sees David Shea embarking on numerous different paths, all under the watchful eye of Zorn himself, who assumes his position as Alto Saxophonist for this album. The album takes a large influence from the music of the east - which is hardly surprising, considering Zorn's fixation with the orient (just look at Tzadik's New Japan series) - including a large number of samples from various styles of ethnic music from across Asia, as well as a multitude of samples from what sound like retro Kung Fu films. The integration of some of the samples sound so organic - it's as if Shea rented out the studio to a group of virtuoso Chinese Musicians as Florian Fricke did with Popol Vuh's "Yoga". But the samples would be naught without the very competent musicianship from the wonderful roster of musicians that Shea brought together for this album. From Marc Ribot's seedy guitar parts on "Five Fingers" that interlace perfectly with the oriental samples to Sim Cain's Thunderous drumming on "Black Wind Cave,The Weapons", the mood each musician creates is amazing, and really enhances the cinematic aspect of this pseudo-soundtrack. Even the jolly sounding drumming and drones  sound as perfectly in place on Hsi-Yu Chi as they must on any Hindustani Classical Music LP.But my favorite facet of the album is Wu Man's use of the Pipa, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument that sounds not unlike the Japanese Shamisen. Her lightning fast playing on a song like "Fists of Fury…" is simply breathtaking, the sharp, piercing sound of the Pipa cutting through the song and completely demanding the listeners attention - it's completely captivating.
This release is great - it's varied, segueing from meditative pieces to far more funky and off-kilter pieces perfectly, seamlessly blending excellently sourced samples with great instrumentation - overall, a stellar piece, and another testament to what a great label Zorn has established with Tzadik

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