Melbourne artist Sui Zhen has had an incredible 2015, including the release of her gorgeous LP Secretly Susan, following on from earlier EPs Female Basic and Body Reset. She’s also performed at Bigsound, Strawberry Fields and more. We wanted to get to know the music behind the magic, so we asked her to share three albums that have made an impact on her life and music. Enjoy!
Sade, Diamond Life
I’ve been talking about Sade pretty regularly since I started DJing. Diamond Life is impeccably smooth. In a climate of self-producing ‘electronic’ artists, bedroom pop and a dominance of software tools and interfaces and, in my mind, an undervaluing of live performing musicians and artists and instrumental skill… I really look to an album like Diamond Life as something to celebrate. To make recordings like that now, with beautiful live performances in the mix is very expensive and untenable for many musicians who may aspire to do so… not for all, but for the vast majority. My favourite track on this album is When Am I Going To Make A Living.
Mariah, Utakata no Hibi
Another album I’ve been spruiking for a while now, increasingly since NYC label Palto Flats reissued this cult masterpiece and made it available to own for less than AU$300 (which I’ve seen the original come up for less than a handful of times on Discogs). Without overhyping this release, I’ll say a few words about it. One of the main producers and composers, Yasuaki Shimizu produced some really interesting music throughout the 80s. His interests were varied including Southeast Asian music, new wave and punk scenes, an eclectic mix of genres carried into the music. There are moments of ecstatic emotional release, hypnotic darker contemplative moods and upbeat celebratory percussive moments. I’m greatly inspired by this music and strive to always push myself to experiment and challenge myself into making better compositions with each release.
I chose different tracks to the cult classic Shinzo no Tobira to showcase the diversity of the album:
Julia Holter, Have You in my Wilderness
This is a nice bridge between the two albums above. Julia Holter makes the kind of music that will stay relevant for years to come. She’s an incredibly talented composer and producer and this, being her fourth album, demonstrates her lyrical skill and talent for storytelling through song and arrangement. Each track is cinematic in narrative style, in that there are many phrases. It’s dynamic and entrancing with its peaks and plateaus. I had the pleasure of supporting her Melbourne show at Howler and felt it could have been better suited to a concert hall so the audience could sit and close their eyes. It was otherworldly and dreamlike, and carried us all away into Julia’s sublime world. It takes patience and commitment to make music like this, which demands patience and attention from its listeners too. Very happy that this exists in my world.
If you want to catch Sui Zhen in the flesh, head to OFFtheGRID festival on December 22 at the Acca Forecourt in Melbourne. She’ll be performing alongside Cut Copy DJs, Banoffee, Tornado Wallace, Silent Jay + Jace XL, Prequel, Wax’o and Paradiso. Full details here.