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Erik Spangler: beats/theremin/turntable
J.C. Whitcomb/Brad Henkel/Gareth Flowers/
Chris Trzcinski/Cody Brown: drums
Peter Hanson: kazoo/accordions
Du Yun has made a name for herself as a versatile composer and theatrical performer working in a variety of mediums, from orchestra music to art installations. For her recent CD Shark In You, she dons her “pop” hat, incorporating synth textures and trip-hop beats into her creative musical output. Joining forces on several tracks with composer/turntablist Erik Spangler, composer/electro-acoustic trumpeter Gareth Flowers, and cellist Matt Haimovitz, Du Yun unleashes a recording with an ultra-visceral sensibility that ropes the listener in through its attractively bizarre sonic landscape. The music gets so weird you kind of just have to keep listening.
The CD begins with an introductory burst of noise that gradually intensifies, leading into Stay, which swirls with jazzy horns, moody bass lines, synth tidbits, and processed vocals over a skittering beat. The title track Shark In You sports an infectious rhythm derived from sampled didjeridoo, sprinkled with Spangler’s characteristic DJ-style scratching and intensely whispered and semi-sung vocals by Du Yun.
Panacea is more foreboding, an aria with strange, granulated electronic background noises that morph into driving synthesized drum patterns. In contrast, The Gray feels more like sultry cabaret, with intimate vocals, keyboard, horns, and a light touch with brushes on the drum set, while encounter has a radio drama quality—it tells a story of a conversation with a woman waiting for a bus—punctuated with bursts of piano, accordion, and drums on top of a wash of kazoos.
The tracks (If you say so…), i-Goh-Doh and especially Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye Remake are perfectly suited for the catwalk of any high-end fashion show, with their head-bobbing synth lines and thumping beats. I can only imagine what outfits would go with this music.
One of the most substantial works on this disc is the track Miranda, which, for all of the sonic territory it covers, feels like an opera condensed into just under six minutes. Co-written with Haimovitz, who also penned the lyrics, it is a thickly packed, dramatic musical expanse of voice, cello, piano, and percussion.
Throughout the CD, Du Yun’s voice is the mainstay—secretive whispers, singsong chanting, breathy gasps, and tortured screeches are everywhere, moving from front and center in some tracks to misty background washes in others. Although she tends towards sotto voce vocals, Du Yun is anything but shy or inhibited—she lets it all out in one way or another on every track, in such a way that by the end the listener feels as though s/he has been granted a temporary stay inside the artist’s brain. The consistently improvisatory, stream-of-consciousness feel that permeates every track is precisely what makes this set of compositions hang together.