It feels remarkable that ‘属 Belonging’ is Ian Chang’s debut album. But it is. Chang has been releasing music with Son Lux, Body Language and People Get Ready as well as collaborating with the likes of Moses Sumney, Kazu Makino, Joan As Policewoman, Matthew Dear and Rubblebucket since the late '00s.
You would have thought that his debut would have happened by now. But for whatever reason, it never did. Until now. ‘属 Belonging’ is a kaleidoscopic beast. Throughout its 30-minute duration Chang presents us with complex shapes and patterns. Hazy synths are grounded by barbarous beats. Shimmering synths cascade over dense basslines.
‘舞狮 Lion Dance’ welcomes us to the album and let’s us know what we are in store for. A glitchy loop opens the track before the percussion gradually emerges. As ‘舞狮 Lion Dance’ progresses we rhythmic patterns wound, and rewound, us up in perpetual motion. The results are similar to a gyroscopic fairground ride. Giddy fun. ‘Comfort Me’ features Kiah Victoria on vocals. This adds another texture to the album if the results are not as striking as the opener.
‘Teem’ gets things back on track with another dose of glitchy beats and basslines. There are slight ravey motifs to the main riff. This reminds us that Chang’s music is not just for passive enjoyment. They offer the capacity to make us dance if we so wished. ‘Food Court’ is the standout track. Huge creaking noises kick things off. Throughout Chang returns to this creaking motif. It gives us a pleasant sense of nausea. You know the feeling will pass shortly, but you are enjoying the temporary side effects.
The main problem with ‘属 Belonging’ is it works so much better as an instrumental electronic affair, than a pop album. Instrumentals like ‘Lion Dance’, ‘Teem’ and ‘Food Court’ bristle with catchy motifs and brutal basslines. They explode out of the speaker in streams of neon. They are catchy, but with a hard glitchy edge that makes you sit up and take notice. The collaborative tracks do not have the same impact. Here, the vocals smoother the glorious productions making them seem like an afterthought, rather than the main event. Which is a massive shame. ‘属 Belonging’ is the kind of album that you can get lost in but ‘ 雀舌 Bird's Tongue’, ‘Comfort Me’ and ‘Audacious’ really take you out of the moment.
After listening to it a few times you are see what it took Chang so long to release his debut. Each track has been painstakingly crafted. There are layers upon layers of sound. Each one giving a different texture. Some are meant to fuse together to create pop peaks, others are meant to repel each other, creating feelings of conflict.
In spite of the album’s shortcomings Ian Chang has delivered a cohesive body of work that taps into his musical past, but also hints to his future.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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