With a mesmerzing artwork of the album cover done by Tristan Olson, I always imagine what to expect from Dennis Rea. Whether it is his work with Moraine, solo work or his next by working with Jon Davis on his project released this year from the MoonJune family entitled, Zhongyu. It’s a translation that means “Finally” in Mandarin Chinese. And according to the sleeve notes done by Davis himself, he lived in Beijing for three years of his love of music and seeing the performances in China before heading back to Seattle in 2009.
What Jon wanted to do with Zhongyu, is to create a mixture incorporating the sounds of Jazz, Classical and Progressive Rock that felt like coming back home and it’s a wonderful scenario of Jon’s concept of his tribute to the country he loves. And adding the essence of Avant-Rock, World Music, and the Rock In Opposition movement, it is a collaborative brainstorm that will take you into brilliant, haunting, and mind-blowing music that will have your ears perked up.
There are twists and turns that will make you think back of the golden-era of King Crimson, Present, Yes, Univers Zero, and Magma. Those elements work well and Davis, who arranged and composed the 12 tracks on here, will make you feel that you’re witnessing something special that is hypnotic. Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted features Jon on the Guzheng in which it’s a traditional plucked string instrument that has been around 2500 years of history.
Featuring some helping hands from three of the members from Moraine including the soaring electric violin, flute/clarinet, and percussion done by Alicia and James Dejioe, Randy Doak, and a waltz bass line from the Chapman stick by Jon Davis, the time signature of 3/4, takes you back into a trip of the fondest memories of being in the ancient cities of visiting the grounds and the great wall itself at Jinshanling. The Torture Chamber of Commerce, shows Davis and his friends delving into some darker territories.
Here, they channel the haunting forces of the Larks’ Tongues in Aspic-era of King Crimson where Dennis Rea channels the Fripp and Zappa’s virtuosity as Alicia takes her violin into the ominous beauty a-la David Cross style as Randy takes mid and Bill Bruford drumming into the highway while Hydraulic Fracas begins with reverb-delay echoing effect by James DeJoie’s flute improvisation.
He brings to mind Dieder Mahlbre of Gong, Ray Thomas (The Moody Blues), bits of Peter Gabriel’s time with Genesis when he channels his flute into unbelievable areas that you can imagine he is not all over the place but walking to the sound of the beat and the rhythms that he and the band would walk into. Half Remembered Drowning Dream, is an alarming composition.
Mid-chaotic percussion's with a string-section style of classical music on the Guzheng followed by the clarinets and violin with an echoing feedback context and with Sleepwalking The Dog, Jon heads towards the Mellotron by creating an ambient text that recalls both of the Yes albums, Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans. Not to mention the mind-blowing wah-wah improvisations that Alicia and James bring to send you into Space as they create the melodies followed by Doak’s drumming and seeing where in the passages of time they head towards to.
With Cat Hair All Over It, it transforms into a Free-Jazz Avant-Rock improvisations whilst the chaotic structures into uncharted results as they let the instruments go into in what I call it, the Haywire effect as it crescendos like a twisting tornado ready to hit before seguing into MBBL. Jon takes the bass effect by creating this intense walking line on the Chapman as the heavier tones in which Rea goes forth a-la Steve Vai and I can imagine the sounds of Yugen in there and the RIO genre is in full circle. And featuring the blaring trumpet works in the styles of Miles Davis from Daniel Barry as a special guest on the track.
I have enjoyed listening to Zhongyu. This is my third or fifth time listening to this. MoonJune Records have never, ever disappointed me when it comes to releases of amazing Jazz and Progressive Music. I always imagine what will Jon Davis and Moraine will think of next because I would like for them to continue with more of Zhongyu’s music in the near future and see what Davis has come up with.