Fox + Sui
6 Track, LP (2012, Two Bright Lakes)
Related: Fox + Sui.
Relishing the precious and piecemeal as much as a duo as they do on their own, Andras Fox and Sui Zhen debut together here with 16 minutes of pocket-sized beats, tropical airs and vinyl-loving crackles. The well-suited collaborators (he handles the music and she the lyrics and singing) lean towards cosy trip-hop inflections that wouldn’t have felt amiss in the ’90s, when musty lounge and exotica platters were also getting fondly repurposed.
But this isn’t kitschy – or, at least, not overpoweringly so. The vibe is everything, and the vibe is a blend of island relaxation and childlike discovery. The EP begins with the sound of water gently splashed and birds calling in the distance on ‘Summer Storm’, while the opening of the first proper verse could double as a guide to finger-painting: “I take a splash of blue, then red/And add it to the paper.” But despite their slightness, these tunes announce Fox’s subtle, organic production and Zhen’s playful phrasing. There’s a stuttered effect to it all, from clipped loops to the intermittent layering and self-harmonising of vocals.
The songs are a lot alike, supporting and flowing against each other as if to compensate for their brevity and ephemerality. Rain is a running theme, both sonically and thematically; besides ‘Summer Storm’, it’s mentioned on ‘Grass in Flight’ and ‘Moon Nightclub’, and rendered on the back cover as a raincloud housing the ‘+’ in Fox + Sui. That fits the ticklish sounds here, as well as the idea of Fox + Sui tinkering away on their creations while it pours down outside.
It’s tempting to dismiss this as merely some cute soundtrack for some cute city café, but Taboo is a bit more lovely than that, and more varied than it can seem. ‘Lullaby’ could be the sound of Otouto serenading J Dilla, and ‘Taboo’ taps a romantic side that’s faintly R&B-ish. Plus, Zhen makes would-be pedestrian refrains stick more than they ought to, like her reciting the line “Passing by to a party downtown” in a sort of incantation whisper on ‘Moon Nightclub’.
The best track, the piano-grounded ‘I Don’t Wanna Go’, feels more modern than the rest, like something Collarbones might do. Like everything here, it could definitely have been fleshed out more and lent a more satisfying weight. That doesn’t make these vignettes too much less appealing in the end, though.
by Doug Wallen