Review: Psyberlama – 佛笑伽羅 (Karma Detonation Tapes, Feb 5)

As complex as 佛笑伽羅 certainly is, it not only feels difficult but also somewhat pointless to write about, because it is so thoroughly visceral and immediate, simply music to be experienced and to recover from. Much of this scalding aesthetic intensity originates in the utterly unique improvisational dialect developed by saxophonist Chen Hong-yu and Logic wrangler DJ Wu Hun, joined on the second track of this debut tape by Lu Li-yang (they’re credited with “dub control”; I honestly have no idea what that is). On side A, which comprises a half-hour live performance in March 2021 at Meta Flexing Vol. 7, Chen and Wu sling jets of intricate abstraction toward each other like flung buckets of flaming coals, the former’s writhing ersatz arpeggios and subtly evolving phrases tangling with the latter’s heavyweight digi-percussion hits and caustic pure-electronics screech in a violent but colorful collision. There’s not actually any live processing of Chen’s playing via Wu’s Logic setup—the duo is just tuned-in and enmeshed with each other enough to conjure chaos that is at once unified and dichotomous. At first, it seems like the title track, a studio recording rather than a live one, is a more reserved and pensive affair; the repetitive minimalism Chen hints at on the previous side is now a key structural element, a lone sax swell forming the basis for steady dynamic and textural crescendos. But that steadiness is soon superseded by something more like barely contained explosive expansion, tectonic tremors seething under a clattering kettle lid while sublime steam curls in the air above.

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