Ones We Missed: Howie Lee – Socialism Core Value

A year is a long time in the history of music. Things can change very fast in the course of 12 months. New movements can emerge and old ones can die. New faces can appear, whilst unfortunately neglected artists can fade away. It is important, then, to squeeze as much as you can from a singular year, because surely you will never get that time back again.

In that sense, it is important that we take note not only of new releases, but also those that went before the establishment of our blog’s new musical route.

First up in our series is Howie Lee’s album of Chinese Folk and Pop Songs, called Socialism Core Values. Released on his bandcamp in June of this year, Lee takes a group of nine songs, each displaying a singular facet of traditional Chinese music, and adds effects, reverbs, synths, picks up and down pace – creating very credibly listenable songs, but also thoughtful re-enactments.

On Hu Ran Zhijian, a delicate old pop song, about love no doubt, sees the female vocalist’s voice distorted beyond reason. It’s an interesting strategy, as we can hear the collision of world’s occur. The vocalist’s lyrics, her sentiment, have no business being in the same world as Howie Lee.

On Tian Kong, Lee adds atmospherics, plays around with drums and effectively makes a synth-pop effort that might work on the Twin Peaks soundtrack.

Caribbean beats and drums are added to La Mo Zi, creating cultural collisions, which have little or no precedence, the end result seeming a little ludicrous and ridiculous.

And as on Tian Kong, where Lee shows himself to be a producer capable of creating Euphoria between the beats, Zhong Gu Lou makes use of beautiful tremoring string sections, perhaps a ya hu or two thrown in there, and comes out on the other sounding something that fellow producer Four Tet may have made.

Howie Lee is a musician revered and famed in China and worldwide, and rightly so. As this album shows, his playfulness and creativity are constantly out in force.

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