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Pan Daijing - Tissues Music Album Reviews

Pan Daijing - Tissues Music Album Reviews
An hour-long excerpt of an experimental performance at the Tate Modern in 2019, Tissues is rooted in opera but extends the sounds, themes, and harrowing moods of the Berlin-based musician’s electronic work.

Pan Daijing’s studio discography leans toward post-industrial and dark ambient—whether it’s the mechanical misanthropy of 2017’s Lack 惊蛰 or the organic sprawl of 2021’s Jade 玉观音—but the underlying skeleton of the Berlin-based musician’s work is keenly operatic. An hour-long excerpt of an experimental play originally performed at the Tate Modern in 2019, Tissues is the fulfillment of that tendency. Though the recording derives from an opera-based performance, it doesn’t feel dissimilar to Pan’s electronic work; its traditional choral arrangements are haunting and cryptic, and its vast expanse is familiar in its agitation. Pan’s music has often used sound as a means of investigating the collision of the biotic and the synthetic, and on Tissues, she turns to the human voice to explore the title’s multiple meanings, both paper and flesh.

Opening with an uneasy cascade of electronic tones, the opera quickly melts into a ritualistic soprano, its dialogue intentionally untranslatable. Tissues is divided into four sections demarcated by shifts in motion and terror, tracing a journey from “A Raving Still” to “A Deafening Hum.” In addition to the double-bladed meaning of “tissues,” Pan pursues the idea of duality more generally in the libretto’s mixture of old and new Chinese, establishing an unsettling tension between the two forms that mirrors the piece’s contrasting vocal styles. The body of the story itself is ouroboric, the libretto loosely inspired by Murong Yan, a wuxia character whose male and female aspects try desperately to kill one another.

The interplay of warring voices informs the thesis of Pan’s project. The abstract structure, at least compared to a traditional opera, piercingly emphasizes the beauty of its arrangements. Across the seamless span of “A Found Lament” and “A Tender Accent,” swooning sighs and orotund mezzo-soprano are backed by an almost melodic drone, and high-pitched voices cry out, “害怕! (Fear!),” to protest the minatory wall of mechanical sound encroaching on them. On “A Raving Still,” a strangulated, robotic voice commands, “Wake me after, wake me after,” before the song is pierced by an inhuman screech that recalls a hawk’s lone journey across a canyon. A delicate battle plays out between Pan’s electronics and the voices that color them. Her own voice, rich and euphonic, adds to the frisson of these tracks—marking a stark contrast to the bite of synth punk in her cries on Amnesia Scanner’s “AS Chaos,” or her spoken word across 2017’s A Satin Sight.

Despite her fascination with opera, Pan has no formal musical schooling. “I’ve never studied a single day of music and now I want to write an opera,” she told an interviewer in 2019. “Where does that come from?” But when performed at the Tate Modern, draped against the brutalist backdrop of the Tanks, Tissues emerges as a vivid, full-bodied narrative. A large ensemble of dancers and opera singers is drenched in shadows of black and red; they contort and perform the play’s ceaseless conflict against the museum’s inorganic architecture. Even removed from the context of the live performance, Tissues remains charged with resonant beauty and keen-eyed focus, despite the pervasive air of disquietude. Its duality never strives to pull itself apart.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Pan Daijing - Tissues Music Album Reviews Pan Daijing - Tissues Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, January 29, 2022 Rating: 5

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