Dusty Ballz / UK / 2023 / CS
By the time of winter 2022, musicians around the globe had stopped making lockdown albums. Telling stories of the pandemic had been out of fashion in some parts of the world, and no longer emotionally bearable in others. This was the time when Sheng Jie recorded Review in Beijing, as accumulated feelings of anxiety, frustration, and loss rose to the peak across China. A deeply personal project from start to finish, Review bears the heavy weight of these collective sentiments in its genesis, and voices them out in a sincere, unsettling way.
A classically trained multi-instrumentalist and veteran in Beijing’s underground, Sheng Jie is known for making beautiful noises. Over the years, she has developed a distinctive aesthetic which combines elegantly balanced compositions with relentless walls of string drones, marking her recorded works with a signature sound blending etherealness, intensity and warmth. Review makes a radical departure, taking instead a close-up on the raw texture of the everyday in the time of crisis and social control. Using her mobile phone, Sheng Jie recorded bits and pieces of life in her estranged hometown: the mechanical whirring of an elevator at the supermarket, the sound of the night crowding into her room from an open window, voice loops from a loudspeaker instructing citizens to scan the QR code for nucleic acid test. In between, she played guitar, cello, and an analogue synthesiser. The instrumentations are casual and sparse, they convey a sense of stone-cold apathy, a state of emotional exhaustion in which one loses the ability to be either hopeful or hopeless. For Sheng Jie, this was “the ultimate emotional response” to Beijing’s new normal.
Shortly after the album was made, three years of zero-COVID campaign in China came to an abrupt end. History hastily moves on. Review, in this sense, speaks of memories and feelings that are too soon left behind, it makes a stand to look back. Against a bitterly divided world, it also gestures towards resonance and reconnection.
The album was first released with no paratext on March 3, 2023, we thank all our blind listeners for their precious curiosity.