Judy Kang – Judy Kang reimagines our relationsihp with the classical. (Music review)

I’ve been listening to this album for quite a while and it has grown on me, so much so that I’m searching for it in my playlist these days. It covers such a variety of sound imagery that I find my mood has to be right in order to grasp the depths in her offerings, but Judy Kang knows her music and she knows her experimentalism, so that makes for a fine listen in my book.

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This self titled album comes in on the heels of a top start to a career.  With a spot on the sold out Lady Gaga Monsters Ball tour, to working with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s trio, she has certainly dived in at the top end of the fame spectrum. She comes across as a little like one of those women trying to tick all the boxes, which can be a bit of a trap.  But when you can cash the cheques you’re writing, hell why not?

Kang likes to splice pop against classical – something I imagine a lot of violinists must grapple with, given the oppressive weight of the traditions around the instrument. She starts with the first two tracks being quite ambient, drawing on many of the traditional sounds we expect from classical violin given a more accessible reach. The posits this intro against the first song-ish style track, which is actually track three, entitled ‘You’. ‘You’ has basic Madonna-style pop styling with a typically 90’s song structure.  She sounds like a cross between Kylie and Madonna here with a slap of Depeche Mode behind her. All that sliding 80’s style synth sound is coming from her violin, which adds an interesting depth to the thin disco sound. It’s a little like a showcase of sounds – she’s shown off her ambient / classical and then her disco / pop.  It’s not really till track five that we get into the meat of what Kang might be about.

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‘Champagne and Chandelier’ leans more toward the sliding ambient experimental sound where Kang is easily the most interesting.  The sliding writhe of ‘Sleepwalk’ (I loved that this song actually sounded like a sleepwalk) tilting lovingly into ‘Everything is Pink’ is where the album hots up for me. Kang seems more relaxed here, and as though she’s having fun. ‘Everything is Pink’ gives her a chance to show off her skill, but it still seeks to evoke a drama stemming from the long listing days of Prog and glam rock. It’s the kind of music you want to fill your house with – loud and overtaking everything.  She sounds like she is having fun with ‘Electric Sun’ as it gathers up into electro 1970’s inspired energy – personally I could have used more of this sort of sound.

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As if we’ve been on a journey with Kang all along, she moves us into the aptly named ‘still’, ‘dream’ and ‘Sunnyside’, music that sounds more gentle and soulful – again moving toward that ambient style that classical can easily fall into. I felt her bridge was crossed better when she moved into drama with that proggy sound than when she goes toward the ambient, although the music is very beautiful and at times quite zen. The restful quality of the sounds make for lovely moments crossing cultural barriers from Japanese inspired sounds through to an almost flamenco style of strum that comes through particularly in the final track.

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It’s a nice album to add to her collection, and it will be interesting to see where she takes it all from here.   Judy Kang, Judy Kang is self released and available here.

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