April 14, 2022

Hong Kong
Shameless SHLP 12

What so-called Art Rock, Avant Rock or ProgRock is supposed to sound like, but so seldom does, is what Chicago’s Cheer-Accident have created with this 19 track disc. Rather than overbearing drum beats, pseudo-profound songs and frenetic guitar posturing, the instrumental sextet ingeniously melds snatches of improvisation with field recordings made in various areas of Hong Kong in 2019. 

Traffic and crowd noises, smatterings of conversations, public address system announcements, rain splatters, mechanical noises and industrial drones share space with synthesizer burbles, percussion plops, piano chording, saxophone multiphonics, trombone smears and guitar licks, with fades and silent interludes built into the program. Although some tracks clock in at under one minute, all are arranged so that the found sounds don’t overpower the created ones, and vice versa. Throughout, while certain timbres are distant and others upfront, a few extended and some more concise, balance is maintained.

Most significant from a narrative standpoint are the two lengthiest interactions “Gloucester Road Escalator” and the combined “Old Peak Road” and “Lan Kwai Fong.” So crowded with fanning timbres that it’s almost opaque, the first move forward in a polyphonic and polyrhythmic manner spurred by back-and-forth vamps from vibrating baritone saxophone scoops and whinnying brass, completed by cowbell pops. The last two focus more on unaffiliated industrial clanks, thwacks and drones, pierced occasionally by broken octave piano clips, saxophone snarls and honking plunger brass. As allegro  keyboard chording and twittering reed bites mix with the noise of real thunder and shouted voices the melded tunes are completed. “Airport V” is a brief coda of keyboard plinks, synthesizer warbles and crowd buzzing.

As creative and striking as Hong Kong is, at this point it’s a sonic artifact of a vanished civilization. Some of the sounds may remain in the city, but repressive mainland China’s control and rule and Covid devastation have irrevocably altered their intent and meaning. 

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. SoHo 2. Robinson Rd I 3. Robinson Rd II 4. Wan Chai Street Market I 5. Hong Kong At Night 6. Hong Kong (Night/Day) 7. Airport I 8. Airport II 9. Airport III 10. Wan Chai Street Market II 11. Wan Chai Street Market III 12. Wan Chai Street Market IV 13. Wan Chai Street Market V 14. Gloucester Road Escalator 15. Airport IV 16. Robinson Road III 17. Old Peak Road 18. Lan Kwai Fong 19. Airport V

Personnel: Mike Hagedorn (tenor, soprano trombones); Ross Feller (soprano, tenor, baritone saxophones); Cory Bengtsen (baritone saxophone, electronics); D Bayne (piano);  Jeff Libersher (guitar) and Thymme Jones (drums, piano)