Today City Slang announce the signing of Ian Chang for his debut full-length record, ‘属 Belonging’, which is set for release on April 24th. The first track, “Audacious (feat. KAZU)“ is online today, accompanied by vocals from Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino.
Ian Chang has built an impressive roster of progressive pop collaborators such as Moses Sumney, Kazu Makino, Joan As Policewoman, Body Language, Matthew Dear and Rubblebucket, among others, all while performing internationally and recording as a member of Son Lux and Landlady. On his solo work, however, his unique, expressive approach to percussion takes centre stage, leading a cyborg – part purring mechanism, part animate bio-mass rising from primordial ooze.
Of collaborating with Kazu on lead single “Audacious”, Chang comments: “This was one of the first songs that came together, before I had any concept of what the album was going to sound like. I was frustrated trying to flesh out the harmony for a completely different idea, when all of a sudden this crystalline and simple arpeggiated theme emerged amidst the brain fog. The rest of the instrumental came very quickly around that one part, but it didn’t feel complete yet, it felt like a scene without the lead character. That’s when I realized that it would be perfect for Kazu. There’s something about her melodies and delivery that is paradoxically melancholy and playful, earnest and nonchalant. At this point, the two of us had already met and collaborated on her solo album Adult Baby, but before that, I had been listening to Blonde Redhead for many years as a fan. Needless to say, I was thrilled when she agreed to take a stab at the song and even more so when she sent what she had written.”
Kazu adds: “This song was inspired by the evening we played on the same bill at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC (Blonde Redhead and Rafiq Bhatia). Ian had played on my record by then and I was looking for a record deal. He was playing in Rafiq Bhatia’s trio and it struck me how brave they are. The act of playing music seemed risky and exposed but also so pure… I remember he got a bit cold after the show and I lent him my sweatshirt, I felt protective of him ahaha… I still wasn’t aware then that we would get to explore so much more music together but I felt proud to be next to him and playing music on the same stage. The song comes from the impression he made on me that night.”
The accompanying video was directed and animated by Qieer Wang.
On ‘属 Belonging’, in nine concise, largely instrumental pop songs, Chang conjures a personal cosmos. At every level, his music sings with earnest and deceptive simplicity. The album’s melodies are intimate, its rhythms rewarding, and yet, just beneath the surface glimmers innovation, as if the neurons firing in each melodic idea have become audible. From the tradition of Bjork, Burial, and Flying Lotus, Chang breathes a new kind of human vulnerability into electronica.
When Chang describes his creative process, the phrase “third culture” keeps coming up. Born in the colony of Hong Kong in 1988, Chang has lived a nomadic life. Stationed out of New York for 10 years, he built an impressive roster of progressive pop collaborators. Now relocated to Dallas, Texas, Chang’s discovered an inquisitive confidence that can only come from newfound isolation. Between tours, he dedicated himself to developing his international musical language, facilitated by a home studio and a burgeoning relationship.
Chang’s magic starts with his method: from an improvised foundation of sampled percussion, he follows the innate logic of a musical conversation, allowing his compositional forms to reveal themselves. The album’s three vocal features – KAZU (Blonde Redhead), Kiah Victoria and Hanna Benn – weren’t anticipated at the project’s outset; they arose like friendships, unpredictably complex and increasingly rare, a consequence of Chang’s ubiquitous receptivity. Whereas on his EP ‘Spiritual Leader’ (2017) Chang limited himself to capturing unedited performances without overdubs, on this release the percussionist expands his palate, burrowing deeper into a layered, symphonic subconscious. Consequently, Chang’s formidable growth as a producer is on display. Reflecting the album’s bottom-up, performance-as-composition construction, his music conveys an intuitive sense of wholeness, carrying its experimental ethos without pretence. The resulting album unfolds like a confessional exploration, complicating the lines between rhythm and melody, modernity and antiquity, exuberance and meditation.
For his first time in the aesthetic driver’s seat, Chang hopes that ‘属 Belonging‘ may connect with those who have found a home in their not-at-homeness. The album represents a tumultuous period of enormous activity and advance, rooted in an eye-of-the-hurricane peacefulness. On ‘属 Belonging,’ the sense that nothing is planned yet all falls into place allows us to reconsider what we really need in order to belong. In his willingness to start over again and again, to let the music guide him (instead of the other way around), Chang reveals a home without boundary. ‘属 Belonging’ introduces a musical contradiction: complete yet ever-evolving, neighbourly yet global, precise yet instinctive, familiar yet innovative. Ian Chang’s debut both satisfies and challenges modern expectations of catchy electronica. May we find ourselves at home in the paradox.
‘属 Belonging’ track list:
1. 舞狮 Lion Dance
2. Comfort Me (feat. Kiah Victoria)
5. Audacious (feat. KAZU) (video)
6. Food Court
7. 雀舌 Bird’s Tongue (feat. Hanna Benn)
9. 醉罗汉 Drunken Fist