Exposé Online banner

Lin Di — Bride in Legend
(Wind Records TCD-5271, 2004, CD)

Cold Fairyland — 2005 Live
((Not on label) no#, 2005, CD)

Cold Fairyland — Seeds on the Ground
((Not on label) no#, 2007, CD)

Lin Di — Ten Days in Magic Land
(Wind Records TCD-9109, 2003, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2008-01-01

Bride in Legend Cover art2005 Live Cover artSeeds on the Ground Cover artTen Days in Magic Land Cover art

One of the first musical things I discovered after moving to Beijing was this band from Shanghai. Their Chinese name (Lengku Xianjing) is taken from the Chinese title of a book by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami ( “Hardboiled Wonderland” in English). Anyway, for a number of years this group of musicians has been developing their take on Chinese progressive music. Lin Di, a skilled player of the pipa (a lute-like instrument), is the sole composer; with the addition of bass, guitar, cello, and drums a truly interesting combination of sounds and influences was born. After two self-produced albums, they hooked up with Taiwan’s Wind Records for a pair of beautifully produced albums of atmospheric music. Ten Days in Magic Land is strangely credited to “Lin Di and Cool Zone” though the Chinese band name is the same as on the other CDs. This is probably due to Wind’s positioning of the music in the same general arena as Enigma, which has only marginal validity. Most of the ten tracks are fairly gentle in impact, featuring hand percussion rather than a drum kit, and acoustic rather than electric guitar. Keyboard work is subtle, and there are odd atmospheric sound effects scattered about. Flutes feature prominently throughout, and Lin Di’s vocals are soothing and ethereal, easily in the class of the world’s famous angelic female vocalists.

Bride in Legend takes the band’s sound even further, adding more Chinese instruments to tell the story of a young woman sent to marry a man in a distant land. The lush vocal harmonies often remind me of Finnish band Värttinä, though in a very different language. Again acoustic instruments dominate, though the electric bass is more prominent. Eight tracks in, the drum kit and electric guitar make an entrance on the hypnotic “Mula-Shabei Dazhan.”

The band’s live album, recorded in 2005, is a mixed bag. Arrangements from the earlier albums are fleshed out, taking peaceful studio concoctions into something more like the work of a band and giving the players a more equal share of the sound, but the vocals, so lovely and serene in the studio, are a bit shaky at times. Electric guitar, bass and drums play a much more prominent role, making this the album most like progressive rock. Tracks from all of the previous albums are included, mostly in very different arrangements. Some might say that pushing up the “rock” quotient on these songs makes them less unique, but I find the music good enough to withstand the increased volume. The three new tunes are highlights, showing a band maturing into a more integrated version of themselves, with gently shifting time signatures and complex arrangements.

CFL’s 2007 release (Seeds on the Ground in English) bears the fruits of this maturation in a studio setting, and includes new versions of two of the live album’s new tracks. Comparing Seeds to the earlier albums, there is a noticeable improvement in balance: the pipa and cello are more integral to the sound, not just colorful flourishes, and, with the increased distance from the New Age tag, the rhythm section participates more fully. This band admirably manages to meld Chinese music, both folk and classical, with modern sounds to come up with something unique, and uniquely Chinese.


Filed under: New releases, Issue 35, 2004 releases, 2005 releases, 2007 releases, 2003 releases

Related artist(s): Cold Fairyland, Lin Di

Latest news

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more

2019-03-03
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Blue Cranes - Observatories – Blue Cranes are from Portland, Oregon; led by two saxophones, one alto and one tenor. The band has a remarkable style, having heard Monk and Zorn but wanting to play straightforward rock melodies....  (2011) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues