Li Daiguo - Xiao Gong Music Album Reviews

Li Daiguo - Xiao Gong Music Album Reviews
The Chinese-American multi-instrumentalist's drone works are sensuous and lively but evoke a vast loneliness.

Take a minute to scan Li Daiguo’s discography and you’ll find tracklists full of evocative titles. “A steady heartbeat is the sound of death” is one such chin-scratcher, but there are others that rival the length and bemusing dramatics of Keiji Haino’s inscriptions. Li’s dedication to the poetic form mirrors the deceptive simplicity and lingering beauty of his music: he mixes instrumentation—both Western and Eastern, traditional and contemporary—in a manner that’s uncomplicated yet thoughtful, his works always grander than their discrete elements suggest.
Insatiable curiosity is foundational to Li’s music. While he attended college in California for violin performance, much time was spent exploring other instruments. The liner notes for his latest album, Xiao Gong, assert as much: more than a dozen instruments are listed, including the pipa, guzheng, mbira, Moroccan flute, and cello. But for the Chinese-American multi-instrumentalist, maximalism isn’t as important as maximal impact. On the opening track, “I just want to find someone to love again, I haven’t really done it yet,” he uses abstracted electronics to mimic wheezing train whistles before summoning his own makeshift train-like rhythm with a booming drum. These instances of intra-track shapeshifting bear witness to an inquisitive nature that invites you to sense every textural juxtaposition, to relish every sonic throughline.

To be certain, Li has never offered such a rich tapestry in his solo music before. While his collaborative albums with Kink Gong and Rick Parker were busy, their syntheses of disparate elements were inelegant. Li is fully committed to maintaining cohesive atmospheres here: late-album highlight “I need to work hard to make it seem like I’m living a good life” blends disorienting blips, spiraling whirrs, and the lone plucks of strings—the disenchantment that informs its song title is never far away.

The meaning of Xiao Gong itself also hints at the drabness of modern living and the unrewarding paths taken in search of happiness: Xiao translates to “smile” or “laughter” while Gong connotes an achievement attained through virtuous work. Each track provides an opportunity to feel this hollowness and grief more deeply. The album’s fourth song, “I can’t stand it myself,” circles around a noisy, despondent vortex of strings, while the incessant electronic pulses and soaring flute melodies of album closer “I don’t know what I’m going to do, I’ll let it be for now” make the track as vast as it is lonely. Elsewhere, “These things must be bought, in the future” offers charm in its unexpected beatbox interludes, but these moments are fleeting and quickly dissipate—any resulting joy is squashed in favor of elegiac piano.

Music that captures listlessness without the aid of lyrics is often tedious, so it’s no small feat that Xiao Gong is so sensuous and lively. This is largely because Li’s compositional approach involves using electronics to instill energy. “I was interested in playing with electricity like an element of nature, like fire, that doesn’t really care about what you want once it is born,” he said in a recent interview. You can sense that in the woozy album centerpiece “Why is everything done well, but nothing is done well,” wherein electronic filigrees meander until they vanish into silence. For those in a similar position—wandering aimlessly through life until death swallows them whole—Xiao Gong feels like a damning, distressing mirror. Li doesn’t offer any solutions; instead, there’s only the familiar desire to escape anhedonia, something most succinctly relayed in Xiao Gong’s third track title: “I want to find a hobby or sense of meaning at any cost.”
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Li Daiguo - Xiao Gong Music Album Reviews Li Daiguo - Xiao Gong Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on March 24, 2021 Rating: 5


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