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(60:38; Cold Fairyland)
A conversation one day with Olav Bjornsen somehow led onto a discussion about progressive rock music from China. This is an area I know virtually nothing about, as while I used to be sent material from Japan, China is a country where I have had no musical connections whatsoever. I have decided to correct that and am now playing a live album from one of that countryís top progressive bands, Cold Fairyland. It was initially formed as a project between Lin Di (vocals, keyboards, pipa, ruan) and Su Yong (bass, vocals), but they soon expanded and by the time of this release they also included Zhou Shengan (cello, vocals), Li Jia (drums, vocals) and Song Jian Feng (guitars, vocals). Later in their career they were joined by a keyboard player, and interestingly the six-person band have recently been made up of three married couples. This album was recorded live in Shanghai at the ARK Music Club in 2005, and in many ways is the perfect introduction to the band as the songs included are taken from all of their studio releases, as well as including material from Lin Diís solo albums which were available at the time. Musically, the album is almost broken in two, as there are songs which are powerful and very much in keeping with the neo-progressive symphonic sound with crunching guitars and driving drums, and then there are others which feel more traditional and folky in style. Piano and cello are also very important elements of the overall musical sound, and when they bring in the pipa and ruan (traditional Chinese 4-string plucked instruments) they totally change the overall sound. All vocals are in Chinese, and Lin Di has a powerful and melodic voice which is totally in keeping with the music being played, and one cannot help but be enthralled and entranced by what is being performed. I am not sure if this was all recorded at the same gig, as the sound does seem to change somewhat between songs, and there are some rather weird cuts with clapping being cut off, or even not appearing at all. In many ways it feels more like a band in a studio playing live as opposed to a concert setting, and that is somewhat of a shame. That being put to one side I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed this introduction into a different form of progressive rock, and progheads ought to seek this out (all albums are now available through Bandcamp).
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