Cyanching Wu is a Taiwanese sound artist living and working in London. Having found success composing for short films and dance pieces in her native country, she has now turned her hand to experimenting with new methods of sampling. By analysing what fascinated her in the original work – whether it be a bassline, a beat, or a snippet of synth – and fully rerecording it in her own image, Cyanching attempts to make it to the very heart of the music she listens to. As such, this is not a “samples” record in the classic sense – you are unlikely to recognise any of what you’re hearing, but you will come to see that it follows familiar patterns in the way the tracks are structured.
Cyanching calls her pieces “collages,” which I think is to do them a disservice. Shadow of a Shadow, her new release for London’s Bezirk Tapes, is a far more organic affair than the mechanical cut-and-paste job that description brings to mind. The enormous title track, for example, develops glacially, with the elements sprouting and blooming from one another and the creator’s control of their ebb and flow as light and graceful as the moon’s unseen dictation of the tides. As the track picks up pace and strives to pass the quarter hour mark, a violent guitar crunch punctures its progress like a T-Rex through the sunroof of a jeep. The technique has been used to similar effect before, not least by Francisco López for his monumental “Untitled #104,” but where López permitted destruction to take hold, Cyanching makes it through the other side. It speaks very directly to her release notes, in which she discusses her homeland’s “history of invasion” and the hope that, through integration, Taiwan will pull together “towards the same goal.”
The three pieces that make up Side B ride the same hopeful pulse, bringing in a wide spectrum of sounds from the cool dawn chimes of “Fermentation” to “Invasion, Massacre, Brainwash”‘s hollow Tarkovskyian rumble. The tape ends with “Elimination,” which you can stream below. The track seems to open in its predecessor’s aftermath, where dusty shards of light can prick through the wreckage and begin to illuminate paths to the future. As it closes, a brand new world is blooming again; systems can be heard flickering into life as the clouds start to lift.
Interestingly, Cyanching has also spoken about her abandonment of Taiwanese musical tropes in order to better embrace Western compositional methods – I wonder whether she knew when she moved West that her art would also describe her new environs as accurately as they are intended to portray the politics she left behind?