Review: Chloe Yu Nong Lin – Pi Sound 琶聲

MONASTRAL.

Despite the presence of electronic patches and overdubbing, Pi Sound 琶聲 showcases the interaction between Chloe Yu Nong Lin and her instrument – the pipa, or Chinese lute – first and foremost. Her gestures move between soft strums that mimic petals falling, sudden staccato notes like pinpricks through closed curtains, knocks and rattles against the instrument body and angular spiderweb flourishes. Each is executed patiently and spaciously, dressed in a reverb that brings to mind nocturnal stone, always given the time to be heard and held independently before Lin excites the instrument again. Instead of obscuring this central performance, the electronic patches act as little ripples of fantastical consequence: pockets of reversed time, brief downpours of tapping fingers, working to accentuate the acoustic element rather than needlessly complicate it.

It’s a performance that demonstrates both an intimate knowledge of the instrument – an awareness of how certain notes will resonate, or how just the right amount of fretboard pressure will produce those icy, fingerplucked droplets – while also suggesting an insatiable search. The album features both an original improvised performance by Lin and an overdub alongside her former self, exploring the gap between those two points in time, exchanging energy over the gulf of life experience and reconfigured perspective. This act is an acknowledgement that Lin’s relationship with the pipa is always changing. Her present self perceives opportunities and bears reflexes that were formerly absent, and the brittle vibrancy of her performance – sudden and stark plucks that decay as quickly as they come – tacitly acknowledges that this new version of self will too transform.