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Zhaoze - 2016 - "Intoxicatingly Lost"

(61:34, Trail Records)


1. The Worthless 5:06
2. See You in the Dusk 6:19
3. Falling Leaves 7:16
4. 1911 Third Movement 8:26
5. The Youngster Fishing for the Stars 6:59
6. Lonely Shadow Would Dance 5:02
7. Sleepy Child Sweet Smile 4:01
8. Into Your Dream 6:12
9. Intoxicatingly Lost 12:13


Hoyliang  guqin, xiao; keyboards
Seasean  drums, glockenspiel
Littledream  guitars 
Roy  bass 

Prolusion. The first Chinese band to appear on the progressive rock map of the world, ZHAOZE is a veteran unit on their native music scene, with origins that can be traced back to the 90s and a history as recording artists commencing in 2001, with multiple albums to their name since then. "Intoxicatingly Lost" is a compilation assembled to be their debut within the international progressive rock movement. It was released in the spring of 2016 through the US recording company Trail Records.

Analysis. Encountering artists with a cultural background markedly different from the one you belong to yourself is always an interesting experience. There will often be some trademark features to the sound of such artists that easily identify where they are from, details and flavors that come across as exotic for those not overly familiar with music from that specific scene. Zhaoze is a band with such features, even if and when the kind of music they explore is one with clear and defined western origin. This mostly instrumental production is an excursion into the realms of post-rock, where texture is king and the songs ebb and flow by default. Zhaoze masters this type of music excellently, easily alternating between careful, ambient sections, sporting gentle floating keyboards, and subtle instrument details only to majestic arrangements sporting massive guitar walls and intense rhythms. More often than not they will hone in on arrangements in between those extremes though, alternating between careful and more powerful, kind of nervous, guitar cascades with appropriate shifts in the pace and intensity of the bass guitar and drums. What separates Zhaoze from Western bands exploring similar territories, as well as giving them a striking identity of their own, is the use of two instruments specific to China: the xiao, originally a bamboo flute, and the zither style instrument guqin. While the xiao provides gentler, fleeting details of a similar nature to many other flute instruments, the guqin is the instrument that really adds a strong character to the album. When used as a plucked string instrument, it has a distinct sound that, I suspect, most people will associate if not with China then at least with Asia, and its ancient earthly sound creates a stark contrast to the other instruments used a meeting of different cultures as well as different ages, ancient medieval Asian spirits teaming up with modern Hollywood ghosts, if you like. Fairly often, the band also uses the instrument with a bow, and the end result of that action is textured sounds that sound like an ancient, subtly rougher type of cello. Less of a contrasting feature than when plucked, but a striking sound nonetheless, and an effective contrast with its dark tones there to the otherwise mainly light-toned guitars. East meets West; the Ancient teams up with the relatively Modern here, and the end result is a striking album that resides in the heartland of post-rock, as far as I can tell, and then with a distinct Asian and Chinese flavor to it, an album with a clear identity, separating it from many other recordings of a similar nature due to that.

Conclusion. Just how popular post-rock is as a genre these days I really do not know keeping track of the demand for music outside of the mainstream spectrum is increasingly more difficult in this age of streaming services taking over from the sales figures of yesteryear. Those who do know and love this type of music might want to track down this album though, especially those who are generally fond of post-rock featuring what one might describe as world music elements in general terms, and then in particular those who find the notion of a distinct Chinese take on the genre to be intriguing.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 25, 2016
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Trail Records


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