The happening of a journey from beyond The Great Wall to the land of ghosts.
With “zhongyu” meaning “eventually” in Mandarin, there’s no better word to announce the arrival of this ensemble that carve a Tianxia-shaped niche within fusion idiom. Yet shape is a volatile concept in the the agile mind of Jon Davis, an adept of Chapman Stick, who, after a considerable time spent in China, is bringing his experience to fruition now with the help of guitarist Dennis Rea, the main proponent of music from Under Heaven in rock circles, and his colleagues from MORAINE. Instruments-wise, there’s only a modicum of respect for traditional arrangements, though, puns of the compositions’ titles increasing the overall irreverence but not concealing the textured breadth of the album as a whole.
Fed into Davis’ Mellotron, Oriental tunes come out stunningly hypnotic, with pieces such as “Apple Of My Mind’s Eye” transfixing in their subliminal-level throb and silky melodies, while guzheng and flute take “Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted” further beyond the mundane. Randy Doak’s percussion may be the only tangible thing about “Half-Remembered Drowning Dream” where strains of blues tremble – those born on the cotton-fields in the Yangtze delta – yet “Sleepwalking The Dog” is focusing on rather agitated delivery of equally mesmeric quality. As if to not let the listener get deep in stasis, “Tunnel At The End Of The Light” pans stereophonically across shattered funk of its instrumental tangle, and Alicia Dejoie’s violin cuts through “Torture Chamber Of Commerce” to pin its meandering riffs to the ground.
The chthonic six-string figures emerge from the abyss to enhance the paper-thin bucolic beauty of “Wanderland Wonderlust” and oppose the experimental rush in “Cat Hair All Over It” that charts a jazz trajectory until “MBBL” ramps up, stacking James Dejoie’s reeds at the front, the unison quotient of the band’s extravaganza. It subsides to a drone for “All Food Comes From China” but excitement doesn’t leave the room once the sounds have given way to silence: they’ve finally arrived to stay in your head.