Zajia Lab are starting a series of midnight events to get us all out of the normal patterns of experiencing these things (as I understand it). The first was last Saturday night/Sunday morning with an album launch for 冯昊 Feng Hao and 李增辉 Li Zenghui’s project, 核桃室 The Walnut Room.
The stage set up featured Feng and Li working behind a gauze screen on which another artist and musician, Wu Quan 武權, projected visuals to accompany the music. These visuals were of an overhead view of a container of liquid, into which various objects and inks were added, creating a somewhat psychedelic effect. Dimly visible through the screen, Feng Hao and Li Zenghui played two sets, each about 30 minutes long. The first seemed very freeform, although I assume it had some structure. It began with small cymbals making sharp ringing noises over which Feng breathed. As the piece built up in content and loudness his breathing became a babble of distorted voices, and the addition of Li’s saxophone and percussive sounds created like a really loud freakout piece by the end. The second set was more controlled, incorporating synthesised drones (the snippets in the recording above are taken from this second piece). I felt this last piece was more successful, in that the spontaneity and open-endedness of the first set was given more obvious direction.
The feeling throughout seemed to approach the ecstatic: the voices and music had a magical, ritualistic quality that suggested an abandonment of the body to other forces. This feeling matched some of the imagery for the album (Feng Hao is also a graphic designer), which drew on line-drawings of mathematical structures and mystical diagrams (oddly, there seemed to be two conflicting strands to the graphic design for the album, one being the aforementioned mystical imagery, the other being a poem executed in braille type, arranged in a very minimal, vertical line).
Despite the elaborate presentation, I was not impressed by the event. The apparent abandon of the music and the symbolic artwork were overdone. The projected visuals, too, were almost a cliché of psychedelic art. In the right context these visuals might have worked, but here they did not seem to complement the intensity of the music, and ultimately were not a productive element in the mix.
The artists are obviously working hard at creating an immersive experience with their visual and musical identity, but it is not one I was able to appreciate.