‘Belonging’, Ian Chang’s first full-length album, is like a cyborg – part purring mechanism, part animate bio-mass rising from primordial ooze. In nine concise, largely instrumental pop songs, Chang conjures a personal cosmos: the listener feels as if we might reach out and touch Belonging’s jagged and tender aural sculptures. At every level, his music sings with earnest and deceptive simplicity. The album’s melodies are intimate, its rhythms rewarding and yet, just beneath the surface glimmers innovation, as if the neurons firing in each melodic idea have become audible. From the tradition of Björk, Burial, and Flying Lotus, Chang breathes a new kind of human vulnerability into electronica.
Chang’s magic starts with his method: from an improvised foundation of sampled percussion, he follows the innate logic of a musical conversation, allowing his compositional forms to reveal themselves. The album’s three vocal features – KAZU (Blonde Redhead), Kiah Victoria and Hanna Benn – weren’t anticipated at the project’s outset; they arose like friendships, unpredictably complex and increasingly rare, a consequence of Chang’s ubiquitous receptivity. Whereas on his EP ‘Spiritual Leader’ (2017) Chang limited himself to capturing unedited performances without overdubs, on this release the percussionist expands his palate, burrowing deeper into a layered, symphonic subconscious. Consequently, Chang’s formidable growth as a producer is on display. Reflecting the album’s bottom-up, performance-as-composition construction, his music conveys an intuitive sense of wholeness, carrying its experimental ethos without pretense. The resulting album unfolds like a confessional exploration, complicating the lines between rhythm and melody, modernity and antiquity, exuberance and meditation.
1: Magenta isn’t a real colour.
2: The world record for someone staying in an anechoic chamber
(completely silent room) is 45min.
3: I’ve broken my arm twice, both times from slipping on a ball.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
The relationship between touch and sound – both in the physical and digital realm.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I was fortunate enough to start piano lessons at 6, then I got into drums and percussion at 9 and guitar at 14. From there the obsession grew.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
I’m really bad with favourites, but here are 5 big ones for me in no particular order:
Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda
Björk – Vespertine
James Blake – James Blake
Dawn of Midi – Dysnomia
Madvillain – Madvillainy
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
No place smiles in the summer like Berlin.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
Casa de la Chuck and George – the home of local artists Brian Jones and Brian Scott.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Probably work in food, photography or therapy of some kind.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
SK Kakraba – Songs of Paapieye on vinyl.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
As performer – Big Ears festival at the Knoxville Museum of Art 2019. As spectator – Portishead at MELT! festival 2014.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Very. Especially Sunhouse’s Sensory Percussion. This project actually came into existence organically when I was beta testing it back in 2015/2016.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have an older brother and a younger sister. I’m happy to say that they’re very supportive!
Photo © Shayna Fontana