Mount Buzhou is a mythological Chinese mountain that once supported the heavens; according to legend, when the water god Gong Gong smashed his head against it, the skies had to be repaired. This is a great concept for an album that reaches for the clouds and is packed with musical collisions. Nearly every genre is covered here, from drone to sludge. The intentional standout is the collection of Chinese recordings that anchors the album. Often staggered and/or layered, a process echoed in the videos, these recordings plunge the listener deep into the heart of that Eastern land. It’s incredible to think that this is the work of a duo; Lerin / Hystad packs so much into the album that they sound like a full band.
“Daguan” is the go-to track, a rail car crashing into a rickshaw. The deep bass is reminiscent of Grails, while the chanted breakdown is difficult to compare to anything else. Suffice it to say that the merging of these disparate influences is a trip, in both the literal and psychological senses. All the split screens are meant to disorient, no pun intended. The result is psychedelic. It’s hard to tell whether the conversations buried in the mix are live or pre-recorded – we’re going with the latter, due to the loops – but the effect is that of walking through a marketplace rich with scents and sounds: jasmine and chrysanthemum tea, yayue and shidaqu.
Lerin / Hystad (who are Swedish and Norwegian) seem to have fallen in love with the territory, and have captured its sense of otherness well. It’s ironic that Chinese pop music has been leaning toward the West in recent years, while the West has finally begun to celebrate the richness of Chinese musical tradition. It’s one thing for an artist to incorporate a whiff of ethnicity; it’s another to honor it outright, as the duo does here. Even better, by presenting traditional music in an entirely new framework, the duo demonstrates the diversity of China’s musical heritage. In terms of timbre, the largest difference may lie in the tuning; traditional tuning enhances the richness of tone but to Western ears may seem atonal. A further irony is that Mount Buzhou will sound completely different to Chinese ears, who may interpret the Western additions as dissonant. To date, responses to the live performances have been positive. Such responses seem to indicate that audiences are ready for a new wave of audacious experimentation that eradicates any notion of “world music” as a bland genre. (Richard Allen)