Double take: There’s nothing silly about Xiao He’s new record: Silly’s Ballad
I was excited and afraid to get my hands on this baby for a review as I’m not the biggest Xiao He fan in the world… let’s see what comes out of it:
Beijing Daze on Silly’s Ballad
I feel a bit weird writing this review because I’m getting that strange “not appropriate” gut feeling. See, Xiao He’s new release is meant to be so much more than just musical. It’s not a CD but a beautifully crafted book that is meant to be read and touched while one listens to the songs though one of a kind sound reducing earphones. Xiao He‘s genius, which borders on insanity, has brought forth a vision and an atmosphere and judging it sorely on the music doesn’t seem fair, not having the lyrics right now is also limiting.
The opening seconds of the the first song bring me tons of relief… He is singing and playing guitar.. and most of the album goes that way! He is navigating through different vocal styles, strumming patterns, loops all while keeping the music very earthy. Some songs, like “Dark night is running back from a faraway place” sound like a fusion of different folk styles: Mongolian vocals, Yellow river rhythms and blues harmonies. Gugu Bird starts off sounding like a cover of Jolene and morphs into what Xie Tian Xiao would sound like acoustically.
And the journey goes on with the rest of the record where I spent most of my time going ” What’s this reminding me of?”
“Missing Person Report” is what I believe Xiao He at his creative interpretative best… turning a number of missing person reports into such a beautiful song… deceptively beautiful and peaceful!
Musically, this Xiao He the way I like him and I’ll leave it to that! I might do a second review once i get my hands on the whole product.
Ruby on Silly’s Ballad:
I like to describe Xiao He as genius perched on the edge of insanity, sometimes he slips over and sometimes he stays on the sane side, which is why I love going to his shows – you never know what to expect. If he has just his acoustic guitar chances are you’re in for something good, but when you see the laptop come out, you know it could go either way.
This new album ‘Silly’s Ballad’ though, stays on the right side of that edge. Xiao He created it at home with his guitar and computer, you can hear the looping pedal has been used, but there’s none of the high pitched squealing, screeching or playing random snips of pop songs, which he’s been known to bring out in live shows. Instead what you can hear is the noises of his living/recording environment, cicadas chirping, and planes passing by, for example. This album goes back to the style I love to hear him play, more melodic folk, beautiful harmonies and intricate guitar playing, and less experimental. He’s created the music by himself, so there are layers of sound overlapped and some electronic sounds added in, but for the most part it’s done in a way that complimentes the guitar and singing. It’s the more stripped back songs such as the 10 minute 90年代 (the 90’s) and 生日快乐 (happy birthday) with their simple and sparse sounds, that I love. I’m hoping the album comes with the lyrics which sound to my ear almost like poetry. The instrumental 月儿曲 (moon song) is also one of my favourites, but 月菩萨 (moon buddha) is probably the only song I don’t like on the album.
But it’s not just an album, it’s also an artwork, each of the 12 songs has a leaf in the artbook and it comes with a set of quality headphones to listen with. I’ve been told there’s no way to get the music out of the book and into a computer or mp3 player either. So the art and music must go together as a complete experience, which is an interesting way to present this. There’s also limited numbers, making it a collectors item for any fan of his
Stop by Great Leap Brewery Saturday or Sunday from 3:00 to 7:00 pm for the album release and the exhibition that goes with it. I expect a packed house!