Zhaojiabang – “Shen Pian” – Single Review
What can I say? I enjoy being right just as much as the next person…especially when it comes to music.
When we were first introduced to the Shanghai-based art/alt-rock band back in June of this year through the single & video for their song “La Patience” – I absolutely knew something special was happening with this four-piece band. The song was great, the video was amazing, and the entire vibe that Zhaojiabang was putting out indicated that a massive amount of thought was going into the music and every possible detail surrounding their career…it was clear through the stunning quality of “La Patience” that they were in this to create moments that truly last. Complex in their emotions, and always willing to challenge what we think we know by offering their own perspective on the heavy themes they create in their material – Zhaojiabang is making music for people that want MORE. More out of the meanings, more out of the imagination, more out of the sincerity, more out of the connection – the list could go on & on…and as I predicted last time, they’re ready to supply ALL this & more, every time. “Shen Pian” is another killer example of the commitment & focus within this incredible band.
I mean, call me crazy, but I like music & concepts that really make me think…and that seems to be exactly what the core of Zhaojiabang’s music is all about, which they’ll demonstrate again perfectly through the stunning music on “Shen Pian” and another extraordinary video to support their latest single. In an earnest attempt to appeal to a worldwide audience when singing in a language outside of English, which is the case on “Shen Pian” – it can be crucial to have an enticing video that helps bring a visual trail of breadcrumbs for the people out there across the globe to follow in order to get the meaning across to everyone…it’s something Zhaojiabang did amazingly well with “La Patience” and I think they’ve definitely done it again with what they’ve got onscreen to bring the words to life in their new single “Shen Pian.” Lead-singer Mavis sings this gorgeously in a mysteriously dark & haunting vibe, all in Chinese; so for those that can’t naturally sing along or are unfamiliar with the language, they’ve got this video for “Shen Pian” produced by BLNK, written & directed perfectly by Olivier Hero Dressen, for you to absorb the meanings behind the words she’s singing – check it out for yourself below!
So much to unpack here right? “Shen Pian” literally translates to “The Book Of Magic” for starters. Secondly – what an awesome video right? It deals with time-travel, love, politics, tragedy, restriction, control, what can/can’t be changed…and ultimately, serves as a reminder to live in the present and make every second we have count. The video is completely pro & highly cinematic – you can watch this just like a mini-movie and really marvel at how well the idea translates through what we see onscreen and the emotion that comes through the music. The plotline is killer, the colorization is beautiful and highly stylistic with its focus quite often on a color or two within a black & white setting, there’s drama, there’s tension, there’s heroes, there’s villains…and yet still, somehow…it becomes entirely relatable. Especially if you do believe in the importance of the present and have a ‘be here now’ mantra of your own…for the rest of you, it’s combinations of music & messages like this that will prod you forward to that next state of evolution or at the very least, give you the opportunity to see life from another perspective…and maybe, just maybe, it’ll make some sense to you…enough to change your life even.
They’ve also switched up the lineup a bit this time around. Mavis is still confident, graceful, and powerful on the mic, Jerome brings in the sweet & darkly melodic bass-lines, and Richard Curran comes in to lend an assist with the violin, viola, and cello you’ll hear bringing the surrounding atmosphere to life on “Shen Pian.” Lyrically, I think Mavis has done an exceptional job and I love the poetic style she writes with…excellent imagery and beauty in the words she comes up with, and plenty of emotion to make them come alive when she sings them. Jerome forms the backbone of the rhythm that guides “Shen Pian” and keeps this song gliding smoothly along with enticing tones & melody – and Richard’s performance takes this song into breathtaking heights through the powerfully melancholy & moving sounds of the strings he’s adding to the music. As a result, the three of them creep through this song at a haunting pace that hangs in the air and clings to your bones, leading to a feeling you won’t be able to shake off that sticks right to your soul. As balanced as a song can potentially be – every piece of this puzzle is essential…Mavis is at her most mystifying, Jerome at his most melodic, and Richard is clearly a master of many instruments, rounding out this collaboration in all the right ways with stunning sounds. No weak points and nothing I’d change here; I’m realistic about the fact that music without a beat, music that’s artistic, music that moves slower & isn’t designed to be a sing-along is almost always a harder sell to the masses – but Zhaojiabang combats that all cleverly with their smoothly textured & captivating sound on “Shen Pian,” along with a video that’s bound to draw in a whole additional crowd. Plus, if you’re familiar with their last single “La Patience,” then you also know that “Shen Pian” offers a completely different dimension in style, sound, and experience this time around…which is another great move being made by Zhaojiabang early-on in their career that will open doors for them later on as well.
So…I’ll say this. In comparison to their last single, I think “La Patience” went for that gritty & amped-up sound to grab your attention – and I think “Shen Pian” furthers the entire story of this band when it comes to the actual level & degree of the art they’re combining into their material, both in the music and onscreen. “Shen Pian” isn’t going to find that aggressive side of Zhaojiabang this time around; it stays impressively expressive, graceful, thought-provoking, beautiful, and insightfully artistic. It’s tender, delicate, fragile, emotional and powerfully moving…”Shen Pian” comes to life through a blissful combination of inspired & melancholy vibes; it’s captivating because every second genuinely counted. Within the more threadbare atmosphere & without the advantage of distortion carrying the weight, the curtain gets peeled right back here for a more clear glimpse of the heart & soul that drives this project. With the careful precision, professional approach, stunning instrumentation and vocals they’ve put into “Shen Pian” – I think it can break that barrier between slow-songs and the masses from the insightful amount of artistic appeal it has from the song to the video…I can’t help but feel like there must be a lot more people out there like myself that really appreciate just how much effort Zhaojiabang puts into the music they make.
And I suppose…therein lies the key as to WHY a song like “Shen Pian” works so well fundamentally. Because you can hear in the music that they ARE making the most of every moment they have – you can hear it in the commitment & focus in the musicianship, you can hear it in the emotion of the vocals. You can see it onscreen through such an impressive match to the core meanings and intentions behind this single and the words that Mavis has written. They ARE in the present…and they’ve giving their music every chance to succeed in all the right ways. A tune like “Shen Pian” examined through that lens becomes uniquely inspiring and oddly comforting; it has admirable intentions and the sweetest of sentiments rooted at its very core…and I’m positive these traits will translate to everyone listening. Zhaojiabang continually keep me interested and continue to write & create compelling music & art that makes serious statements & has massive appeal for multiple reasons on multiple levels. It’s moody, it’s dark, it’s beautiful, it’s meaningful. Love what Zhaojiabang creates – love this band!
Find out more about Zhaojiabang from the official pages below!
Official website: https://www.zhaojiabang.net
Listen to the new single “Shen Pian” direct through the links below!
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