Bai Shui – Winter 冬
15/08/2009 § Leave a comment
Artist: Bai Shui
Title: Winter 冬
Label: Midnight Productions
Genre: Folk/ Ambient
When this album arrived with the rest of the Heathen Harvest promo package it was difficult to work out what it was: almost the entire CD packaging is in Chinese. Fortunately there are one or two clues inside to let you know whatever it is you’re listening to, so I can informatively announce that this is the second album of Chinese folk ambient project Baishui. The track titles aren’t translated either and after a search around the internet I still can’t find any hints as to what they mean – that part will have to remain shrouded in mystery, and it’s one I find rather appealing. Chinese culture has great enigma, history and darkness to it, which is shown wonderfully in the traditional sound that the Winter package conveys musically and visually.
Baishui spends most of his creative time in the well-respected neofolk ensemble Bloody Woods, but his self-named albums have a far more atmospheric and traditional tinge to them. Winter’s artwork contains washed out pictures of geisha in light pastel dresses, alongside other traditional oriental themes: its overused but at least it looks authentic. I’d love to be able to get my hands on more of this kind of stuff since China holds such intrigue for me, however, since the chances of my getting on a plane in the near future are about the same as Forever Slave winning a Grammy, I probably won’t have the good fortune to visit the country in the near future – obviously things like this album, the Chinese Torture Chamber trilogy and multiple cheap restaurants with fan-folded napkins in Soho will have to suffice in the meantime.
There’s something very calming about the music that Baishui makes, each of the 13 tracks being a perfectly serene homage to traditional Chinese folk music. Baishui takes care of all the instruments on the album ranging from the guitar to Chinese flute, Xun and Xiao. If you haven’t the clue what some of these are, their sound will become instantly recognisable on hearing them. The artist uses all the instrumentation at hand to create an aura of mysticism, sometimes fashioning ethereal, ambient passages enshrouded with an inimitable Eastern edge, and other times simple folk imbued with Eastern melodies, all deftly played with skill. Baishui occasionally uses vocals – one track of which includes the uncredited use of female vocals – and though they’re not always as on-key as they could be, their gruffness adds a certain honestly and rawness which befits the music.
Unlike its namesake, Winter doesn’t always have a cold sound to it. At times it may be chilling, cold and bracing, though at others its sounds have a light, verdant freshness to them. There may not always be enough differentiation between the songs to grab every listener immediately since the album can take many goings over to appreciate its subtleties. However, in the sometimes dreary and uninventive world of neofolk it’s refreshing to come across something that actually feels born out of genuineness and love for its referenced culture and tradition, rather than experimentation with the folk sound out of some kind of romantic dream. It’s impossible to doubt the authenticity of Baishui’s sound, or the passion and devotion that created it.