Somnambule - Writing About Music

Asa-Chang & Junray ~Jun Ray Song Chang

Most music that I hear is fairly easy to categorise – perhaps this is a reflection on my listening habits or the limited availability of non-Western culture here in London – one of the great capitals of the world, broadband, dvd, cable tv, radio, satellite all feeding into this chaotic, dirty metropolis, but you still have to work fairly hard to hear music that isn’t easily categorised. Along come Asa-Chang and Junray...

This music is like a journey to an unknown country, someone’s put you to sleep and bundled you onto a plane, you’ve only just woken up as the plane hits the runway; you wander out of the airport trying to work out where you are by your surroundings: Java? Osaka? Nepal? More likely in the case of Asa-Chang and Junray, you’re in one of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities or you’re even perhaps on a whistle-stop tour of a number of them. Some snapshot highlights:

Hana. Romantic, eastern strings swell. Assembled words, dissected syllables spoken against them in a language I don’t know, each mirrored by the beat of a tabla. Sentences accumulate crab-like. Sparse electronics shadow urgent events.

Preach. A children’s township band is marching around looking for friends to play with. Little creatures screach at them. An alien percussion spaceship lands and tries to take them over, but the band grow older and win out by bringing the wisdom of their years to bear.

Kobana. Some different children are telling you about something that fascinates them. Their voices are modulated and trailed by a mournful accordion and occasional tablas.

Nigatsu. Loud peal of thunder reverberating across the sky, rain falling. A man begins to describe something, but you don’t know the language and if you knew the language you maybe still wouldn’t understand, electric guitar joins in and gradually speeds up until a sudden cut to an alien temple full of sonic incense.

Radio-No-Youni. A multi-kulti pile-up of sitar, acoustic guitar, electronics, trumpet, melodica that starts in one village, goes for a wander in the countryside and arrives in a similar, but different village.

I can’t help but think of each track as a miniature film describing something I have never encountered and would not necessarily (intellectually) understand if I did. This is a glimpse of a rich world outside the known. I recommend these journies unreservedly.
Colin Buttimer
November 2002
Published by the BBC