If you are new to the work of Pan Daijing, you’re in for a trip. The Guiyang-Berlin based songwriter and, more accurately, sound artist will take you to the darkest, most uncanny parts of our lived experience and will deliver you feeling both enlightened and terrified. Daijing’s work embraces the abject in the same vein of Lovecraftian horror. She is preoccupied with the incomprehensible and the unknown, crafting music full of textures that confront the strangeness of the human condition. Through these sparse, weird electronic scores is Daijing’s voice; mournful, pensive, and full of wisdom. Her eldritch, operatic arias are at once contemplative and spellbinding, a seance to the ephemerality of being.
On her third album Jade 玉观音, released through her label PAN, this voice is positioned front and centre and becomes the core of the bizarre, theatre macabre world around it. Theatre seems to be a catalyst for much of Daijing’s output on Jade 玉观音, and follows a recent string of exhibition-performances at major institutions such as the Tate Modern, durational activities crafted for a cast of opera singers and dancers. The influence of this can be felt across the album, and as with the craft of live performance Jade 玉观音 turns the gaze inwards toward the examination of our emotional psyche. On the mesmerising Let, Daijing delivers what is essentially a soliloquy, ruminating on the fear and vastness of the unknown. A scream echoes beneath the waterlogged soundscape, a shout in the dark, an attempt to be saved from drowning. This is followed by the industrial experimentalism of Metal, which extrapolates upon the fear of Let not by providing reprieve, but by engulfing you in the nightmare of being sucked into the void of all that is unascertained. This is how the brilliant horror of Jade 玉观音 functions, by presenting deeply introspective and hymn-like contemplations followed not by catharsis, but by all encapsulating tension.
The arrangements are haunting, with a primal ritualism scoring through Daijing’s compositions. On Dictee, a growling didgeridoo like sound is blended with brassy, jagged cello chords like the creaking of a rusty gate. These animalistic atmospherics soundtrack Daijing’s dirge, which here is more of a keening than melody.
Jade 玉观音 is ultimately a collection of twisting, knot inducing elegies which, all things considered, reflect the current time of our existence. The uncertainty that looms beyond the present moment is reflected in Daijing’s disparate, existential opuscule making it terrifyingly relatable.
Jade 玉观音 is available to purchase here.
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