Dual Review: Jiang XiaMeng – Pieces / Myra Siewert – Dream Journal (self-released, Feb 19)

Reviewing two albums at once is obviously not something I usually do. But the mysterious Bandcamp page listed under “Louis Schumacher” on which I found these releases instructs listeners to experience the two in tandem. Both albums are roughly 22 minutes in length and make heavy use of field recordings, but that’s about where the similarities end. Pieces, composed of four parts mostly containing very short songs, is described as a “commentary.” The miniature tracks are isolated portraits of various environments, ranging from conversation excerpts to recordings of zippers to occasional electronic overlays. They pass by at breakneck speed, blocking any opportunity to analyze the mysterious sonic snapshots in any significant depth; that is, until the final track “IV.” It’s a long form electroacoustic piece, barely making use of any field recordings at all; certainly a significant contrast to what came before. It’s an interesting choice to induce such immersion within this track, while the previous three parts allowed none; the explanation behind which I am still trying to figure out. Dream Journal, in contrast, is a “purge.” Almost instantly, it’s clear that it’s quite different from Pieces; the recordings are layered and sculpted rather than fragmented and sequenced, the songs taking on a (fittingly) dream-like quality. The sounds are always shifting in and out and around each other, forming a fluid collage that is a perfect foil to the tension-filled conclusion of Pieces. For the most part, these albums and their connection to each other are still uncertain, but it sure is fun to speculate. And at the end of the day, both releases are great in their own right, and I’d highly recommend trying them out.