Wow. Simply put, Lonely China Day’s Sorrow is a beautiful album. It is quite unlike anything else I have heard this year, or am likely to hear for the rest of it. Sorrow is filled with sprawling soundscapes that are challenging and relaxing. It is a strange combination of sounds and feelings that will surely have an effect on you even if you don’t know what they are saying (much like myself). That said, I have found it to be a tough nut to crack into. It is beautiful, haunting, unique, and has proven nearly impossible to find a way in in order to review it the way it deserves to be reviewed. I could just say that if you like music on the fringe, this is for you. However, that would be all too easy.
For someone whose realm of experience lies primarily within the rock and metal world, other genres can prove to be a big challenge to write about with any degree of knowledge. I have seen Lonely China Day compared to bands such as Sigur Ros (is that a name or a band?) and The Album Leaf. I could pass that off as my own observation, but I have never heard of those other bands, much less heard them. Now, all of this could just show me to be without any credibility when it comes to this review. I would have to disagree with that assessment. Sure, I may not have a frame of reference from which to compare/contrast the band, but I am open to sharing my experience with them. That could prove to be something even more valuable.
When the album arrived on my doorstep, I had no idea what to expect. I read some of the promotional materials that came with it and my anxiety increased. When I see phrases like: “Sorrow is the result of a band pushing their sound further into the abyss of an abstract ocean” and “Each track bursts with surreal minimalist lap tops speaking alien languages inside an indie rock cocoon,” well, I get a little worried about my ability to connect with whatever lies behind the musical bits. I still wonder if I am connecting with it in anything more than a superficial attraction. Seriously, calling it an album that challenges your ears and soothes your spirit sounds like such metaphysical hooey, but it still seems strangely accurate.
The leader of this Beijing four piece is Deng Pei. He is the primary songwriter, as well as the vocalist, guitarist, and synth programmer. Even without understanding a word that he sings, I can hear the emotion in his voice. It is a voice that isn’t necessarily great, but conveys a lot. He is joined by Wang Dongtao on guitar, He Feng on bass, and Luo Hao on drums. They all contribute to the minimalist sound that is less about what you can do and about where you do it. This is music vastly different than my usual fare. A welcome change of pace from the steady stream of metal acts that I usually fill my day with. This is music that you can unwind to, softly playing in the background as you are transported to another place.
Bottomline. An unconventional review for an unconventional album. I feel I will be searching for a way to crack this for sometime into the future. Despite that, I will not let it deter me from sinking into what it has to offer. Intriguing vocal lines, soft guitars, sparse melodies, there is a lot to love, a lot to digest, and is quite simply a great listen.