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thruoutin dots

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[English version below]

对我来说,在音乐的同一元素中结合传统和现代、东方与西方、异乡人和本地居民的不同感受是一件很难的事情。所以很多时候听到的音乐,不是草率地给传统乐器加上电子鼓点,就是在歌词中混几个外国词,没有实际意义,完全不知道它想表达什么。所以,当听到真正能将这些融合在一起的表演时,确实让人耳目一新。它给人感觉就像是一个流浪在外的异乡客,牢记着自己的家乡,却也十分喜爱现在生活的地方。

这就是thruoutin在2012年发布的新专辑——dots(点)Brad Seippel,也就是thruoutin,是一个在中国生活、在中国进行音乐创作的美国音乐人。这张专辑的音乐主要是缓拍和智能舞曲电子乐,加入了一些传统的中国琵琶乐作为支撑。他肯定不是第一位这么做的音乐人,但他音乐中的某种真实感却非常迷人。当然,dots(点)这张专辑中体现东西方结合的地方并不仅限于琵琶,从以拼音构成的歌曲名到那些描述北京街头生活的歌词,都能看到他现在的居所以及和故乡对比后产生的差异感给他的音乐带来的重要影响。

他较为出色歌曲都和这些元素有关。例如歌曲“Beiwai(北外)”,就是Seippel自己在迷幻的电子嗡明声中弹奏的琵琶曲。曲目“Zhangzizhong(张自忠)”是整张专辑中最引人注目的一首,它将现场录制的公共播报交切入歌曲中,并伴随着另一种中国古典乐器演奏的旋律,听起来像电子二胡,但也有可能是合成的。这些元素并不是随意地拼凑在一起,不会让人感觉“这里有一些现代的东西,那里又有些古老的东西,”大部分歌曲的编曲都十分精巧,而且发人深省。显然,thruoutin对他选择的这些元素可谓是了如指掌。

专辑共有13首歌曲,其中有6首为原创,其余作品则是对这6首的改编混录。所以,这张专辑在内容上谈不上充实,但仍旧十分精彩。缓拍基本属于氛围音乐,通常作为背景乐或者其他活动的补充。Thruoutin的一部分曲目也保留了这一特色,但是他并不是很擅长向前推进这些音乐。如果无意中听到这张专辑,你可能会觉得它很有意思,但是又没有足够的兴趣去把它找出来。至少目前是这样。这一点非常遗憾,因为仔细听时,他组合在一起的元素确实非常有吸引力。

It’s hard to find, I think, music that combines the traditional and contemporary, the East and the West, the experiences of outsiders and insiders in the same element. So often it seems you hear music that thoughtlessly superimposes a traditional instrument over an electronic beat or a few foreign words mixed in with the native lyrics with no real sense as to what it actually means. So it’s refreshing to hear a genuine rendering of what it feels like to be an outsider somewhere and what that sounds like in song—something along the lines of what it’s like to know where you come from, but also to like where you are now.

This is what thruoutin has done with his most recent album, 2012’s dots. Thruoutin is Brad Seippel, an American musician who lives and creates music in China. The music on the album is downtempo and IDM electronica, but with added support from the pipa, a traditional Chinese instrument. He’s not the first musician to do this—not by a long shot—but there is a certain genuineness about his music that makes it engaging. But it’s not only the pipa that gives dots that feeling of East and West. From the Pinyin in his song titles to his lyrics about life in the Beijing streets, there are many parts of his music that sound influenced by where he lives and how it’s different from where he comes from.

His stronger songs play on these elements, like “Beiwai,” a mostly pipa piece that has Seippel playing the instrument accompanied by an airy electronic drone. Then there’s “Zhangzizhong”—one of the most compelling songs on the album—with its field-recorded public announcements intercut into the song, along with a melody played by what sounds like an electronically manipulated (or perhaps created) erhu, another classic Chinese instrument. But instead of being slapped together, like, “Here’s some modern stuff and here’s some old stuff,” most of the songs are well-composed and reflective, as if thruoutin is very much aware of the elements he’s working with.

Out of the thirteen songs on the album, six are originals and the others are remixes of those six, so the album isn’t rich with material, but what he does have is good. But downtempo is essentially ambient music, meant to be heard in the background or as a compliment to some other activity, and while some of his songs hold the promise of uniqueness, thruoutin hasn’t quite mastered that push yet to take them up to the front. It’s an album you might hear in the background and register as interesting, but not enough to seek it out. Not yet, anyway. It’s a pity, because upon a closer listen, there really is something attractive about what he’s putting together.

Get dots on thruoutin’s Bandcamp.

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