Exposé Online banner

Gunda Gottschalk / Xu Fengxia — Youlan
(Victo 117, 2009, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2011-06-01

Youlan Cover art

Here we have a set of live improvisations with Gunda Gottschalk, a German violinist, and Xu Fengxia, a Chinese guzheng player; both of them also provide vocal sounds. The guzheng is an ancient Chinese zither-type instrument, the precursor to the Japanese koto, which has 21 strings tuned to a pentatonic scale. Both players experiment freely with different non-standard ways of producing sounds from their instruments, though they are also skilled at the traditional modes of play. The two have been working together for a long time, previously as members of the late Peter Kowald’s 365 Days and Global Village ensembles, and continuing in other collaborations with Barre Philips, Baby Sommer, Le Quan Ninh, and others. While it’s certainly true that improvised music featuring these two instruments (plus “extended” vocal techniques) could be difficult going, I find the music pleasantly listenable, even though it’s clearly not catchy or conventional in any way. Perhaps it’s because the guzheng is an inherently tonal instrument – you’d have to mess with the strings quite a bit to be truly atonal – or maybe it’s just that the players’ intentions run in other directions, but there’s not a lot of jarring dissonance. The vocal elements are occasionally strange, involving growls, yowls, and ranting, including some Chinese from Xu that I could almost make out (something about “can’t go home,” I think), but never annoying, at least to my ears. Neither woman uses any electronic manipulation of the signals, so there’s an organic quality to the sound.


Filed under: New releases, Issue 39, 2009 releases

Related artist(s): Xu Fengxia, Gunda Gottschalk

Latest news

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more

2018-06-13
Jon Hiseman RIP – One of the great drummers of the rock era has died. Jon Hiseman was a veteran of such ground-breaking groups as Colosseum (I and II), Tempest, John Mayal's Bleusbreakers, and was a founding member of the innovative large band United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. » Read more

2018-06-05
Koenjihyakkei Seeks Funding for New Album – It's been quite a few years since the last new studio album by the amazing Koenjihyakkei. Now they are preparing Dhormimviskha for worldwide release, and they're asking fans to pre-order via a Kickstarter campaign to help it happen. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Soft Machine - Third – For those not familiar with Soft Machine, this is probably the best place to start; this marks the major turning point in the band's career, a shift from a more song-oriented style, through a phase of...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues