Wang Wen – Sweet Home, Go!

9 Production
8.5 Composition
9 Mood
9 Instrumentation

With Sweet Home, Go! Wang Wen show that they are willing to break barriers. “Everything about music should be based on auditory sense,” they say, and with that they let go of the typical traits that characterise post-rock. They do not care for form or feeling, no, this record is all about sound and texture. This record features a unique and experimental sound that creates new paths for instrumental rock to tread on. Nevertheless the band retains, “We are not an experimental band, but we are absolutely not a conservative band. In the essence, post-rock is actually a kind of music which is very subversive. It’s not right that post-rock has become a homogenous music genre.” And thus they created Sweet Home, Go!

RELEASE DATE: 19 October 2016  LABEL: Pelagic Records

The contemporary post-rock scene is somehow very conscious of its rusted formalism. Many bands desperately try to do something new and fresh, but in their search for new sounds, these bands often loose feeling with their musical identity. They alienate their fanbase in favour of progress, yet in some way they fail to retain their relevance. Wang Wen on the other hand are very conscious of their musical heritage, but they also respect their existential volatility: “Through music we can communicate with the entire world. Even when we don’t do it, I think there will be someone else to do it. (…) All of us will become ashes of history. The only meaning is that YOU have done it.”

From the start, this consciousness of decay is perceivable; in the lethargic ¾ rhythm of Netherworld Water, which conjures up images of deserted amusement parks in Eastern Europe, but also in the Hispanic guitars of Red Wall and Black Wall add further to the slight carnivalesque mood of the record. All of this happens against the overwhelming backdrop of a stretched out seascape, which makes its full-fletched appearance in Heart of Ocean, “which leans heavily on the impressionism of compositions like Debussy’s La mer or Ravel’s Une barque sur l’ocean. This comes as no surprise considering that while writing Sweet Home, Go!, Wang Wen also produced 9 hour–long movie soundtrack, which involved an improvised live performance in an artificially flooded warehouse.

Despite the album’s distinct mood and diversity of sound, it is good to see that Wang Wen are still themselves. The lyrical sadness of the previous records is carried through on Sweet Home, Go! as well as the refreshing touch of jazz that’s characterises their pianos. Cello, violin and trumpet have gotten a more distinct role to play, which is made possible by the excellent production. Especially the tone of the heavier parts is so well-adapted, that even though they are bass-heavy, there is always room for additional instruments to create sophisticated layering.

These heavy parts have also become more percussive, which is nice and distinct, but it also takes away some of the dynamics in the record. Even the hipster beat of Children’s Palace cannot stop the album from feeling monolithic, and it does not help that four out of six compositions are over ten minutes long. This is however the only criticism for this record.

For the rest, Sweet Home, Go! is an amazing record. It has everything that could be expected from a Wang Wen album and more. It is melancholic, touching, very elegant, but also elaborate, fresh, and even surprising. Album closer Reset literally functions as a song to reset the mind. With its dissonant choirs – recorded by the band members themselves – it creates a certain hollowness in the listener’s ears which leaves room for new, different music to be heard. This is in line with the band’s self-conscious bearing, and self-conscious they are! Wang Wen are very respectful towards their cultural and musical heritage, and they are anxious to show that they’re moving forward. Sweet Home, Go! is certainly a significant step away from the formula, and it shows an enlightening path towards greater diversity in instrumental rock.

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