China Expat: Musical Expat – Shengnan Wang

Xiami lists her self-titled album as being Mandarin Pop. To be sure, her music is Mandarin, invested with the pathos of living in one of the largest countries in the world, but there is something more to her style than simply pop. 

Xiami lists her self-titled album as being Mandarin Pop. To be sure, her music is Mandarin, invested with the pathos of living in one of the largest countries in the world, but there is something more to her style than simply pop.

Her sound is closer to something constructed by Sharon Van Etten or The XX. There’s more than a hint of the ethereal, more than a passing glance into the vapourous elements of life in a large Chinese city.

Reviewing an album in which the lyrics are all in Mandarin is a nice change. It allows one to relax, beyond the meaning of the words sung, and slip into the seductive chasms which Wang creates for her listeners.

Vocally, she is a typically powerful leading lady. Her voice has depth, sounding like age and experience has left its marks around her throat, or to be more exact, her vocal chords.

Her sonic backdrop is eclectic and seems to gather not just a single genre but rather a variety of different influences, which are ultimately mixed together. The only constant is the pacing, which seems to limit itself always. Wang’s rhythms give the impression of being very contained and very intentional.

‘Hai You, Hai You,’ is laden down with an atmospheric quality. Feedback stirs in the background and in the foreground, surrounding her voice with something restricting. Being a China Expat I have the inclination to say that the noise that swallows or rather supports the enigmatic qualities of what she sings is representative of the gawping amount of noise that surrounds one on a daily basis.

‘Bu Xiang Shi Qu Ni,’ has cinematic qualities, as the music gathers around the idea of losing someone. The rhythm pulsates at a rate faster than your average beating heart, like the beat that accompanies a confession that you wish you never had to make.

The Beijing-singer does something quite impressive with this album. The production is done to within an inch of perfection, thanks to Malaysian producers Yahna & Vmprmyth, while Thruoutin joins in for one song.

Clearly Wang surrounds herself with music that reaches beyond the simple rules of pop, and it shows. It absolutely shows.

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