Wang Wen
Invisible City


4.0
excellent

Review

by insomniac15 STAFF
September 30th, 2018 | 16 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A touching post rock odyssey...

I randomly discovered Wang Wen by clicking on a link a friend posted online, along with a photo taken by himself of a peaceful sunset. It led me to their album Sweet Home, Go!, which I soon realized was a strong effort with several styles blended into a massive, moody journey. After a few listens, I dug deeper in their discography, only to realize how volatile this Chinese group is. Playing a mix of post rock with ambient, jazz and noise influences, you get multiple detours and unexpected turns on each track. Active since 2002, the guys decided to record their latest work in Iceland in the dead of winter before a European tour. The isolated environment and low temperatures influenced the sonic atmosphere too, however, ultimately, it was a desired effect as the recurring theme here is the slow “death” of a city (their hometown, Dalian). Since people move constantly to more energetic, developed places in China (a case available in each country), the respective city becomes quieter and colorless with each year passing by. One member also mentioned Italo Calvino’s book, Invisible Cities as the inspiration for the title.

Moving on to the actual music, Invisible City seems to have taken a step towards a more settled, post rock affair, relying less on experimental outbursts. You can say it’s more conventional in the band’s repertoire or boasts a more western sound. Regarding the latter, I listened to a few similar bands from eastern Asia and found a rather specific, uncanny undertone (should work smoothly with the shrilling atmosphere crime thrillers from that area create), so, weirdly, I found myself intrigued by it. There are many contrasting sounds painting puzzling scenes throughout the LP: the slow beat of ‘Daybreak’, accompanied by mournful horns and icy piano leads suddenly turn into an ‘80s inspired pop beat. It’s like the sun temporarily coming out on a foggy autumn day. The two disparate sounds work beautifully together, but soon you’re slapped back to reality. ‘Stone Scissors’ creates a warm vibe, the equivalent of running from the rain into a cozy café. The gentle rhythm plays for minutes, reminding of Mogwai patterns, until all guitars burst into staccato leads. Meanwhile, ‘Mail from the City’ develops an urban-esque sound with steady beats and faint guitar notes. The lovely horn section and piano embellish the foundation, whereas the distorted coda pops up rather unexpectedly.

It seems the second half of Invisible City follows tighter the main theme, with public announcement samples appearing on a couple of tracks, plus the sense of detachment is a bit stronger in my opinion. ‘Solo Dance’ features an interesting blend of harmonic progressions interrupted by meticulously picked dissonant chords. The background synths reminisce Ulver's Perdition City, which is a cool, appropriate addition overall. From here, the record gradually slows down, ‘Bamboo Crane’ acting like a soundtrack to watching the snow fall in a town square with very few people scattered throughout. The bittersweet moments are augmented by addictive, sharp, but melodic guitar leads, as well as an engaging bass which nicely wraps itself around them. Moreover, the nostalgic horns & piano leads softly carrying ‘Silenced Dalian’ are very touching. Before fading away, there is one final, noisy build up as if you’re just angry and frustrated you can’t do anything about the situation and have to let it all out. After the powerful climax where some actual riffs are raging, the ambient closer, ‘Outro’ puts everyone to sleep through its hazy, reverb & echo-laden drones. As a fan of ambient music, I love the simplicity of this ditty and I find it a very fitting ending to such an emotionally charged album.

In the end, Invisible City might not be Wang Wen’s magnum opus (I feel they can push more to create something even better), but it is definitely a record to check out, provided you have some patience with. It isn’t an LP you can listen at any hour of the day, requiring a certain setting to properly capture your attention. Still, it represents a beautiful yet melancholic experience with an impressive sentimental and cinematic value. Previous record, Sweet Home, Go! had a more visceral tone, still, kudos for not repeating themselves and moving on.




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user ratings (17)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 30th 2018


4624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent album and I recommend anyone interested to listen to Sweet Home, Go!, 0.7 and Eight Horses asap!



Stream/buy here: http://wangwen.bandcamp.com/album/invisible-city

Stream here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pm0En7WEDz0

Digging: Thomas Dybdahl - All These Things

DarkNoctus
September 30th 2018


10501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

gosh this sounds gorgeous



thank you for bringing this to my attention

Digging: Un - Sentiment

rabidfish
September 30th 2018


4099 Comments


wang wen

that's what yo momma say to me last night oooooooooh

Digging: Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temples

DarkNoctus
September 30th 2018


10501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

okay



yeah this was lovely

MrSirLordGentleman
September 30th 2018


11889 Comments


horns on this sound awesome

dunno why they aren't used more often on post-rock

SAPoodle
October 1st 2018


688 Comments


Saw these guys a few weeks ago and they were awesome

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2018


4624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm glad I found them out, they are awesome. For something heavier, leaning towards Swans, check out Jambinai. They are just as good and interesting

Sniff
October 1st 2018


4901 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Is this out now?!?!?!?!?!?! HYPE

Sniff
October 1st 2018


4901 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

There are some weird production choices in this one

teamster
October 1st 2018


3182 Comments


Hate doing this but similar band / albums are __________. Excellent review and thanks.

Digging: Agrypnie - Grenzgnger

zaruyache
October 1st 2018


19737 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

somehow i missed this. added to the list.

Digging: Dakhma - Suna Kulto

Sunnyvale
October 1st 2018


857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sounds interesting, I'll check it out

ProjectFreak
October 2nd 2018


3050 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is very, very good. plays with some post-rock conventions both on the Explosions in the Sky and the GY!BE ends of the spectrum, and it has a lot of dynamic moments and cool textures. great review



oh and that closer really is beautiful

zaruyache
October 2nd 2018


19737 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Makes me go mmmmmmm

kevbogz
October 4th 2018


587 Comments


fuck this is good.

Sunnyvale
October 8th 2018


857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wow, this really hits the spot!



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