Reviews of the Album

With so much music coming out every month, everyone needs help separating the good from the not-so-good, or at least matching up new releases with their own tastes. That's why people who write about music are so important.

Here are some of the things that have been written about Zhongyu, luckily all positive. If a negative review comes out, I guess I'll have a decision to make...

Shepherd Express

This is a really good one from Michael Popke at Shepherd Express

From the flute and electric guitar duality of "Hydraulic Fracas" to the psychedelic flights of "Tunnel at the End of the Light" and the ambient noise of "Half Remembered Drowning Dream," Zhongyu takes inspiration from Univers Zero, King Crimson and even electric Miles Davis while still sounding wholly original. Plus, with a song titled "Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted," how can you not want to play this?

Sea of Tranquility

Jon Neudorg writes at Sea of Tranquility:

This is very diverse and eclectic music mixing jazz, world, fusion, eclectic progressive rock and Chinese music into one big melting pot of sound. The first track "Apple of My Mind's Eye 2" is an eerie and dark sound collage of drones, distorted guitar and Chapman stick. Heavily distorted bass begins "Torture Chamber of Commerce" where fuzzy toned guitar riffs meet tantalizing flute lines making for a clearer presentation of avant-garde progressive rock. For a more Chinese influence try the oriental flavoured "Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted" and "Apple of My Mind's Eye 1" , both featuring a nice guitar melody. The jazzy prog of "Tunnel at the End of the Light" features an extra fat bass line, wonderful flute trills and psyche inspired guitar laced with reverb. The music certainly travels down various paths and nowhere is it more fully realized than in the proggy jazz of "Hydraulic Fracas" where the tribal sounding drums and Middle Eastern motifs meld together seamlessly. Zhongyu is certainly one of the more adventurous albums I have heard this year and fits well within the confines of Moonjune Records. Recommended.

Late for the Sky

At Late for the Sky we get:

Tra le composizioni particolarmente riuscite vanno citate anche Sleepwalking The Dog (non c’è che dire, Davis ha un gusto per i titoli strambi), molto corale nell’esecuzione in cui tuti gli strumenti emergono con la stessa importanza, Wonderland Wonderlust, di nuovo fortemente influenzata dai suoni orientali ma con un’evoluzione ad occidente con la chitarra e la sezione ritmica che si mescolano al violino e al guzheng in un crescendo incalzante.

In English:

Among the particularly successful compositions, "Sleepwalking the Dog" should also be mentioned (no doubt about it, Davis has a taste for wacky titles), an ensemble execution in which all the instruments emerge with the same importance, "Wanderland Wonderlust," again strongly influenced by oriental sounds, but with an evolution in the west with the guitar and the rhythm section that blends violin and guzheng in a relentless crescendo.


Luigi Cattaneo has this to say at ProgressivaMente:

Dove poteva trovare casa un progetto come questo degli Zhongyu se non su Moonjune Records? D'altronde quando si parla di sperimentazione abbinata al prog, l'etichetta di Leonardo Pavkovic è una garanzia. Nel caso degli Zhongyu il jazz rock e la fusion si tingono di umori orientali, andando a creare un sound affascinante e dai tratti misteriosi.

In English:

Where else but Moonjune would you find a project like Zhongyu? Besides, when it comes to experimentation combined with prog, Leonardo Pavkovic's label is a guarantee. In the case of Zhongyu, jazz rock and fusion are tinged with oriental moods to create a charming sound and mysterious traits.


Rocco Sapuppo writes at Distosioni:

Un progetto di musica d'avanguardia, miscellanea virtuosa di rock progressive, suggestioni di electro-jazz e sonoritá evinte dalla tradizione orientale, ci sembra si presenti giá in maniera intrigante... I brani sono accattivanti, sinuosi come seriche sciarpe armoniche, pregni di variazioni cromatiche e sonore, tali da renderli variegati e cangianti, oltre che musicalmente godibilissimi...

In English:

A project of avantgarde music, a virtuosic mix of progressive rock, suggestions of electro-jazz and the sounds of the Oriental tradition, altogether highly intriguing... The tracks are captivating, sinuous like lines of harmonized scarves, full of chromatic variations and sounds that make them varied and iridescent, as well as musically most enjoyable.


From Russia, Leonid Auskeri writes at Jazzquad

Обложка, выполненная в эстетике, свойственной китайским агитационным плакатам эпохи Великого Кормчего, и китайское название коллектива и альбома дают основание предположить, или китайское происхождение коллектива, или элемент стеба, учитывая, что доблестная девушка вооружена всего лишь гитарой. Но – ни того, ни другого. Китайская музыка играет существенную роль в этом проекте, но сделан он с огромным уважением к культуре Поднебесной, и сделан не в Пекине или в Шанхае, а … в Сиэттле, штат Вашингтон, США... Джон, и его партнеры из Moraine, разделяют любовь к прог-року его классических британских и американских представителей и электрическому джазу майлсдэвисовского толка. Эти факторы и определили стилистику Zhongyu, где в большей (Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted,Apple of My Mind’s Eye 1, Wanderland Wonderlust, All Food Comes from China) или в меньшей (Torture Chamber of Commerce, Hydraulic Fracas, Sleepwalking The Dog)степени используются идиомы китайской музыки.

In English:

The cover, done in the aesthetics of Chinese propaganda posters of the era of the Great Helmsman, and the Chinese name of the group and the album, suggests a Chinese origin for the band, or an element of parody, given that the valiant woman is armed with only a guitar. But - it is neither of these. Chinese music plays an essential role in this project, but it is done with great respect for the culture of China, and made not in Beijing or in Shanghai, but ... in Seattle, Washington, USA. Jon and his partners from Moraine share a love of prog-rock of the classic British and American representatives and electric jazz of the Miles Davis style. These factors have determined the style of Zhongyu, which to a greater (Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted, Apple of My Mind's Eye 1, Wanderland Wonderlust, All Food Comes from China) or lesser (Torture Chamber of Commerce, Hydraulic Fracas, Sleepwalking The Dog) degree uses idioms of Chinese music.

Discos Pat

From Francisco Macías in Spain writing on Discos Pat we get:

En un mundo en el que casi todo está ya inventado, una buena forma de innovar es saber mezclar elementos conocidos de una manera original, creativa, sin miedo a traspasar fronteras... "Sleepwalking the Dog" (6'41), una maravilla que contiene una preciosa melodía de violín y clarinete bajo, instrumentos que poco después hacen dos buenos solos, primero cada uno el suyo, y después otro alternándose, sobre un fantástico ritmo de stick y batería. El ritmo va haciéndose más intenso por segundos, hasta que llega el solo de guitarra, con el mellotrón de apoyo. ¡Genial!
Un disco fresco, lleno de vida, intenso y plagado de contrastes. ¿Qué más se puede pedir?

Which might be rendered in English:

In a world where almost everything has already been invented, a good way to innovate is able to mix known elements in an original, creative way, not afraid to cross borders... "Sleepwalking the Dog" (6'41), is a marvel that contains a beautiful melody on violin and bass clarinet, instruments which shortly take two good solos, first each on its own and then alternating, over a fantastic rhythm with Stick and drums. The rhythm becomes more intense second by second, until it reaches a guitar solo backed by Mellotron. Great!
A fresh album, full of life, intense and full of contrasts. What more could you ask for?

iO Pages

René Yedema writes at iO Pages:

Het wonderlijke resultaat schakelt daardoor van een toegankelijke vorm van Rock In Opposition (RIO) naar filmmuziek in de stijl van Scott Johnsons Patty Hearst; van aan Bill Bruford's Earthworks herinnerende moderne jazz naar als kamer-muziek gespeelde minimal music; van King Crimsonachtige, grimmige, door Chapman Stick gedomineerde rock naar angstaanjagende ambient en van Chinese folkdeuntjes naar vervreemdende Mellotron-klanken die reminiscenties oproepen aan de baspartijen van Roxy Music.

In English:

The wonderful result switches thereby from an accessible form of Rock in Opposition (RIO) to film music in the style of Scott Johnson's Patty Hearst; from Bill Bruford's Earthworks recalling modern jazz to minimalistic chamber music; from grim King Crimson-like rock dominated by Chapman Stick to eerie ambient and Chinese folk tunes to disorienting Mellotron sounds that evoke reminiscences of the bass parts of Roxy Music.

Der Hörspiegel

Over at Der Hörspiegel, Ecke Buck writes:

Die zwölf Songs des Albums stellen ein vielschichtiges Hörerlebnis zusammen, das für ein Debüt-Album sehr ausgefeilt wirkt.

In English:

The twelve songs on the album put together a multifaceted listening experience that is very sophisticated for a debut album.

JP's Music Blog

Over on JP's Music Blog we find:

Their influence of Miles Davis comes through on the jazz fusion of "Tunnel at the End of the Light" and "Sleepwalking the Dog." The relaxing tone of "Wanderland Wonderlust" is nice welcome among these complicated instrumentals, before the album finishes with the atmospheric progressive rock feel of "All Food Comes from China."

Svetonio's Recommendations

Svetonio gives us a short, sweet plug on Progressive Ears:

A Far East influenced & magnificent avant-rock s/t full-length debut album by Zhongyu from Seattle, Washington
Favourite track: Hydraulic Fracas

Music Street Journal

G.W. Hill does a track-by-track rundown at Music Street Journal:

This music is creative and diverse. It contains world music, fusion, prog and more... If you like instrumental, adventurous music, this is a recommended journey...
Sleepwalking the Dog
This is a much more rocking jazz meets space and more jam. It's a powerhouse for sure.


César Inca Mendoza Loyola at Autopoietician has this to say:

'Tunnel at the End of the Light' despliega un vigoroso ejercicio de combinación de avant-jazz y fusión contemporánea, haciendo vívidas alusiones a la faceta más muscularmente neurótica del paradigma Crimsoniano — estamos pensando en esos jams de la etapa 73-74... El broche del álbum llega de la mano de 'All Food Comes from China', casi 6½ minutos de esplendor psicodélico-fusionesco que en cierta medida nos remite al inmortal legado de los Jade Warrior de la etapa 1974-8 así como a las facetas orientadas a la World Music de los discos solistas de Tony Levin y Trey Gunn.

In English:

'Tunnel at the End of the Light' displays a vigorous exercise combination of avant-jazz and contemporary fusion, making vivid allusions to the more muscularly neurotic aspect of the Crimson paradigm - we are thinking of 73-74 phase... The highlight of the album comes from the hand of 'All Food Comes From China,' almost 6½ minutes of psychedelic-fusionesque splendor that to some extent we refer to the immortal legacy of Jade Warrior's 1974-8 stage as well as facets of the World Music oriented solo albums of Tony Levin and Trey Gunn.

Moors Magazine

Holly Moors writes at Moors Magazine:

Elk bandlid is subliem, van gitarist Dennis Rea tot elektrisch violist Alicia Dejoie en blazer James Dejoie op baritonsax, fluit en basklarinet. En drummer/percussionist Randy Doak is ook een klasse apart. Wereldfusie kun je dit eigenlijk niet noemen, maar de Chinese geuren die uit deze muziek opstijgen maken het allemaal wel extra bijzonder. Een aanrader.

In English:

Each band member is sublime, from guitarist Dennis Rea to electric violinist Alicia DeJoie and blower James DeJoie on baritone sax, flute and bass clarinet. And drummer / percussionist Randy Doak is a class apart. World Fusion, you can not call it really, but the Chinese scent which ascends from this music makes it all extra special. Recommended.

Diskoryxeion / Vinylmine

In Greek now, we have the Diskoryxeion / Vinylmine review by Phontas Troussas:

Είναι ένα από τα καλύτερα σύγχρονα progressive άλμπουμ που άκουσα τον τελευταίο χρόνο (ή και περισσότερο)... Όμως... όμως... Όσες δημιουργικές επιρροές και να έχει κάποιος, όπως το έχουμε πει πολλές φορές, τίποτα δεν εξασφαλίζει πως θα μπορέσει να φτιάξει κάτι που να στέκει. Στην περίπτωση τού Jon Davis όμως οι «σωστές» επιρροές πάνε χέρι-χέρι με την συνθετική υπερεπάρκειά του. Και τα δώδεκα κομμάτι που υπάρχουν στο “Zhongyu is Chinese for Finally” είναι δικές του συνθέσεις – και, κυρίως, είναι εξαιρετικές δικές του συνθέσεις.

In English:

This is one of the best contemporary progressive albums I have heard in the last year (or longer)... But ... but ... Someone can have those creative influences, as we have said many times, but there is no guarantee that they will be able to create something that stands. In the case of Jon Davis the "right" influences go hand in hand with an excess of synthesis. All twelve pieces present in "Zhongyu is Chinese for Finally" are his own compositions - and above all are excellent compositions.


Czékus Mihály at Hifipiac writes:

Igazi csemege ez az album azok számára, akik értékelik az újító szándékot és nem riadnak vissza az olykor elvontabb zenei formáktól sem. Egy elképesztően jó zenekari felállást sikerült összehoznia Jon Davis-nek, várjuk a következő Zhongyu albumot remélhetőleg sok vendégzenésszel.

In English (near as I can tell):

This album is a real treat for those who appreciate innovative intentions, and do not shy away from the sometimes abstract musical forms, either. Jon Davis has managed to establish an amazingly good band line-up, we expect the next Zhongyu album will hopefully feature many guest musicians.

Music in Belgium

Over at Music in Belgium, François Becquart has this to say:

Du jazz rock progressif chinois, vous aviez déjà entendu? Pas banal, en tous cas. Mais précisons les choses: Zhongyu n'est pas un groupe chinois, malgré son nom qui signifie "finalement" en mandarin... Les titres des morceaux, suprême raffinement linguistique, sont traduits en chinois sur la pochette du disque. Des morceaux comme "Half remembered drowning dream", "Hydraulic fracas", "Sleepwalking the dog" ou "All food comes from China" sont significatifs de ce style qui prend son temps pour développer des atmosphères éthérées et complexes... Le grand mérite de cet album est d'apporter au jazz-fusion, vénérable style parfois pesamment réglementé, une approche nouvelle née de la musique orientale. Au moment où les Indonésiens font du jazz-rock hyper-occidentalisé, les Américains tentent les sonorités asiatiques: un intéressant mouvement de va-et-vient.

In english:

Have you ever heard Chinese progressive jazz rock? Not trivial, in any case. But to be specific: Zhongyu is not a Chinese group, despite its name, which means "finally" in Mandarin... Song titles, in supreme linguistic refinement, are translated into Chinese on the record sleeve. Tracks like "Half Remembered Drowning Dream", "Hydraulic Fracas," "Sleepwalking the Dog" or "All Food Comes from China" are indicative of this style which takes time to develop complex and ethereal atmospheres... The great merit of this album is to bring jazz-fusion, sometimes a heavily regulated venerable style, a new approach born of oriental music. At a time when Indonesians are playing hyper-westernized jazz-rock, these Americans are trying Asian sounds: an interesting move back and forth.

Music from the Other Side of the Room

From Zachary Nathanson at Music from the Other Side of the Room:

And adding the essence of Avant-Rock, World Music, and the Rock In Opposition movement, it is a collaborative brainstorm that will take you into brilliant, haunting, and mind-blowing music that will have your ears perked up... There are twists and turns that will make you think back of the golden-era of King Crimson, Present, Yes, Univers Zero, and Magma. Those elements work well and Davis, who arranged and composed the 12 tracks on here, will make you feel that you're witnessing something special that is hypnotic.

Musik an Sich

We hear from Norbert von Fransecky at Musik an Sich:

Der Approach von Zhongyu hat was wirklich Eigenes. Die sehr unterschiedlichen Stück erwecken nie den Eindruck eines Sammelsuriums. Sie sind unterschiedliche Facetten eines fein geschliffenen Steins.

In English:

Zhongyu's approach is really their own. The very different pieces never give the impression of a hodgepodge. They are different facets of a finely polished stone.

Baby Sue

Someone who goes by the handle donw7 writes at Baby Sue:

A progressive American band that has the courage to make music like this and then have a Chinese band name… deserves a round of applause. After all, most people want everything easily defined and categorized so that they don't have to think at all. There are lots of bands of late whose music seems inspired by progressive bands from the 1970s, but very few who seem to actually capture the sound and spirit of the original progressive wave. The folks in Zhongyu do just that... So many styles and sounds from so many decades and parts of the planet and yet...these songs have a nice flowing quality that makes you forget how unusual the music actually is. Recorded and mixed by Steve Fisk, the sound quality is the dead giveaway that these are brand new recordings. If you like heady progressive music where there's plenty of semi-psychedelic free form spontaneity, you're likely to fall in love with this album. Twelve absorbing cuts including "Apple Of My Mind's Eye 2," "Tunnel At The End Of The Light," and "All Food Comes From China."

Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog

Over at Gapplegate's Blog, Grego Applegate Edwards writes:

This is an unusual blend of prog rock, fusion and a little traditional Chinese musical influence. The band is first rate and the compositions are substantial, original and vividly pulsing. There is a rock edge to it all, especially thanks to Rea's fine guitar efforts along with Davis's dynamic Chapman work and Doak's edgy drumming.
It is one of those programs that covers a wide variety of moods yet holds together as a single statement. If you dig later King Crimson and other ambitious prog-fuse efforts this is an original equivalent.
Fine music that I highly recommend you hear!