Life Death Tears Dream (Independent)
In the nine years since its last release, The Road to Kashgar, Orchid Ensemble has gained a global reputation as one of the most adventurous groups uniting Eastern and Western musical traditions. Life Death Tears Dream, the trio’s third album, is an ambitious undertaking that brings together Chinese classical and folk music, contemporary composition, jazz improvisation, and several strands of world music. In lesser hands the frequent changes of textures and shifts of tempo could result in an album with a jumpy, nervous feel, but the trio plays with fluency and deceptive ease, the arrangements are imaginative, and the production quality is consistently excellent.
Lan Tung’s sinuous erhu [two-stringed violin] is well complemented by Haiqiong Deng’s more terse zheng [plucked zither], and Jonathan Bernard stitches the instrumental fabric together with marimba and subtle use of percussion. Ancient and contemporary Chinese poems, translated in the sleeve notes, provide much of the inspiration for the music. Tung contributes two original pieces—the restlessly dynamic opener “Dancing Moon” and the dreamy “Wind Desires the Clouds”—and there are works by fellow B.C. composers Mark Armanini, Moshe Denburg, Barry Truax, and Ya-Wen Wang. Life Death Tears Dream is a cornucopia of richly varied sounds and moods, full of surprising twists and turns.