Double Take: Ember Swift’s 11:11

This is one of the few albums I know off/have heard where the financial side was pretty much crowdsourced! I though Ember Swift was being extremely innovative when she annouced the project months ago… and by golly, here we are staring at a release tonight at 2 Kolegas. so, what’s the deal? here are our respective (albeit rushed in my case) opinions!

BD on 11:11

I think of Ember Swift and her music as a guilty pleasure, really! It’s fun, fresh, not too superficial and in some cases, quite emotional and socially relevant. I mean you don’t release 11 albums just for the heck of it, you better have something to say. How do you say it? that’s another story! 11:11 , her new release, is pretty intriguing: it’s actually 2 different records that are the same… yeah, that’s what i thought. The songs are pretty much the same with a few quirks that make me smile.. Oh so Sweet is a lovely English Cover of Theresa Teng’s Tian Mi Mi. Jia You is a rocking number that falls short on the record but sounds better live. The Laowai song, which I’ve written about before, is fun in a primal scream kind of way. One of my favorite songs on the record is the understated ” I could Stay Here” which feels like the only song she is not trying too hard on! It’s simple and touching in an honest way.. Over on the Chinese Edition, the opening number, Admiration/Jealousy/Hate, gets things going with a bang.. I’ll have to ask the band why they made the choices they made as far as which songs go where.
Musically, the most interesting song IMHO is the closing number, Pek. It’s the only song on the record that just doesn’t sound like something else… the only one where you don’t think “this has a James Taylor vibe” or this has a Sarah Mc Laughling vibe”. The band could have used a better more organic sound for it though… it feels too cold at time!
Overall, it seems to me as if the album was made like a journey… it starts differently, goes through separate but similar motions depending on the language and finishes with peace, integration and fusion! Not a bad journey!

Ruby on 11:11

Ember Swift’s 11th recorded album is not actually one album, it’s two. 11:11 has an English and a Chinese version, and no, they’re not just the same album with a different language on the cover. There are different songs, the same songs sung in different languages and many different styles of music spread across both.

The album moves from pop rock on ‘Out of Air‘ and ‘Jiayou’, to a jazzier feel on ‘I’ve fallen in love with you’ and ‘I wish I may’ to folky on ‘Wash Water’. There are 6 songs that are sung in English on the English version, and Chinese on the Chinese version. I really like the fast paced ‘羡慕嫉妒恨 Admiration, Jealousy, Hate’ which only appears on the Chinese version. The anthemic ‘老外 Laowai’ is included on both versions, laowai seem to love it, but I’m always interested in how the locals feel about this one?

I’ve seen Ember playing across the city recently with her core band of Zac on drums and Paplus on bass, but in her album she’s brought in more instruments to compliment the sound, there’s an erhu (which sometimes makes an appearance live), a piano and on ‘Blinding Light’ what I’m sure is probably an traditional Chinese instrument, but sounds to my ears kinda like a sitar. I also really like how the recorded version of ‘老外 Laowaiincludes an MC rapping. (I wonder if it’s the MC from her husband’s band Longhendao?)

The album is really well polished, possibly a little too much. I’m reminded of a review my buddy Froog did last year where he said he thought Ember’s voice was too good for this style of rock and I’m a little inclined to agree on this album. I think my favourite songs are the last two, ‘时间停留在这儿 I Could Stay Here’ and ‘PEK’, which actually have the least vocals, but the reason I like them is the way she’s playing guitar reminds me of my favourite female guitarist Kaki King.

If I had to pick which version of the album I like the most it would probably be the Chinese version. Only a few laowai record songs or entire albums in Chinese to varying levels of success, Zhang Sian, Proximity Butterfly and Dude are three I like, but I think Ember also does it well. I’m hoping to see more locals in the usually laowai heavy crowd for the album release!

See Ember and the Band tonight, September 2, 2011 @ 2 Kolegas

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2 Responses

  1. Oh Ruby, I think you need to come to more of Ember’s shows!! Almost every gig that she’s done in venues like Jianghu and Jiangjinjiu have been dominated by Chinese fans!! The laowais have definitely been in the minority! :)

  2. Froog says:

    I don’t think I can thank you for the link there, Ruby. You remember how that post nearly got me lynched by Ember’s vigilante fan club, incensed by my cautious verdict that she was 70% wonderful, 30% slightly lame?

    Oops, I’ve done it again. I’ll have to go into hiding for two or three months.