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Yuching Huang introduces The Crystal Hum with Love

The Crystal Hum is the debut vinyl release by Taiwan-based artist Yuching Huang and her first release for Night School. A beguiling dreamscape of crackles, spluttering, love-struck Casios presided over by the the spectral vocal and guitar work of Huang, Yuching sings love songs at the end of this world and the beginning of the next. Recorded during a hiatus from her group Aemong (a duo with artist Henrique Uba) in Berlin, these songs elevate Huang’s unique vocal style and grasp of atmospherics. The Crystal Hum deconstructs balladry, Garage, guitar music and reforms it into a unified ghostly otherworld version of these languages.

The Crystal Hum thrums with buried desire, trails of nocturnal reverb seeping out of apartment windows, diaristic vocal performances and deeply emotive, evocative Western-style strings. Formulated by Yuching Huang after periods of frustration and experimentation, the album is an exercise in minimalism and paring back, with some tracks like JohnJohn featuring little else than an elastic bass, spring reverb trails, an interjecting vocal and swelling, dislocated synths. The effect is spellbinding, the soundtrack to getting lost in the labyrinthine, closed streets of Venice, Taipei, Hong Kong, or mirror versions of them in the imagination.

On opener Fly! Little Black Thing, a subterranean funk bassline roots Huang’s singing, a rudimentary, unreliable beat floundering in whimsy underneath. Demure, dream Dance music, Huang references classic lo fi experimenters Suicide and Arthur Russell as well as Night School label mates The Space Lady and Ela Orleans. In fact, after the release of Aemong’s third album Crimson, Huang credits the direction of The Crystal Hum to being enchanted by The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits, the landmark lo-fi recording made by Susan Dietrich Schneider in 1990. The new, minimalist approach to her sound world reveals and shrouds in equal measure. On the heart-melter Love, a sultry mid-tempo Casio + bass backing drops into the ether with Huang’s vocal swimming in preternatural void before emerging anew, in awe at the world. Every chord change heralds new perspectives, every guitar flurry swells and drips emotion, nothing is wasted and space billows out from between the grooves.

Huang never reveals more than necessary, making this an in-between love album: the right amount of mystery and darkened mirror shines wanely on The Crystal Hum while remaining fragile and vulnerable in the sweet spots. Turning over in pillowing smoke and night in the dark corners, Huang sings in both Mandarin and English. The songs speak of earthly matters seemingly at the edge of dissipating into nothing. Distorted, beguiling Sambas warble like sweating dancehalls in an imagined Lynchian 60s, as on Thoughts. Closer You, An Illusion warps a classic 60s Girlgroup bassline beloved of the likes of Les Rallizes Denudes into a slight ballad on the edge of the void, held back by the teary-eyed, wistful and enveloping vocal cooed by Huang. Each song feels like a love song dedicated to the bits between worlds, between beats, the negative space between people where desires, feelings and loss hangs in the air, resolute and unresolved. 

20 March 2024

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