Tzusing - 绿帽 Green Hat
Album Review

Writers: Afraa Al Hassan
Published: May 28th 2023

Artwork: Virgile Flores, & Xiaopeng
Photography: Zeng Wu
Mastered: Enyang Urbiks

PAN Records

Tzusing's sophomore album, "绿帽 Green Hat," is a captivating showcase of his exceptional ability to push the boundaries of electronic music. In addition to its intricate rhythms, the album offers poignant commentary on the complex history of patriarchal heteronormativity and the double standards that continue to pervade Chinese society. The album is complemented by mesmerising underwater visuals that convey the artist's profound anger and frustration towards power dynamics in society, which can create a sense of confinement for those who struggle to fit within its narrow parameters.

Drawing inspiration from a Tang dynasty legend, the album skillfully weaves its themes into the title. The legend tells the story of Li Yuanming, an intellectual man who frequently left his wife Cifu alone for extended periods to engage in debates with other scholars. Feeling isolated and frustrated, Cifu had an affair with a widowed neighbour. To signal to her lover that it was safe to visit, she sewed a special green hat that Li would wear before leaving town. However, their secret was short-lived, as Li unexpectedly returned home early one day and caught Cifu and their neighbour in the act. The green hat soon became a symbol of infidelity after the story spread through the local community. Reflecting on these matters, "绿帽 Green Hat" offers a powerful commentary on societal norms and the constraints they can impose on individuals.

By deliberately utilising brooding and ominous tones, the album bravely confronts taboo subjects and provides an intensely immersive experience for listeners. The track ‘偶像包袱 (Idol Baggage)’ serves as a prime example of this, as it immediately creates a sense of impending doom within the first few seconds that builds throughout the song. The combination of metallic clanks and eerie machine-like sounds intermingled with expressions of fear and laughter further intensifies the experience. The music video, directed by Jesse Kanda, takes viewers on a surreal journey through the world's largest anti-flood tanks. The striking visuals of the brutalist architecture are enhanced by the profound words of the Heart Sutra, which serve as a fitting accompaniment. These words express a deep understanding of the root causes of harm and the intention to make amends. Against the harshness of the architecture, the beauty of the message shines through.

This same atmospheric quality is also heavily present in the standout track, ‘Muscular Theology’. Here, muted sirens, pulsating beats, and guttural grunts evoke the sense of being in a video game; perhaps in the middle of a fight. Tzusing's skillful sound conjures an immersive, dark, and deeply climatic experience that heavily reflects his influences.

The seventh track ‘Interlude’ appears to be a musical bridge between two distinct halves of the album. By incorporating a mesmerising combination of layered sounds and heavily distorted, bone-chilling vocal samples along with ethereal jingles, the creation of a surreal and otherworldly atmosphere effectively prepares the listener for what is to come on the rest of the album. Followed by another highlight ‘Clout Tunnel,’ a collaboration with Suda, an unstoppable sense of energy is exuded. This high-octane track is distinguished by its fast-paced percussion and hard-hitting drums, with samples that provide an air of tension and excitement to the mix.

绿帽 Green Hat concludes with ‘Residual Stress’, a 4 minute frenetic track characterised by its fast-paced rhythms, aggressive percussion, along with methodic and compelling claps. Adding an element of danger, Tzusing pulls the listener into a trance with distinctive sounds of guns being cocked interwoven with screams, grunts and gasping breaths.

Overall, Tzusing’s use of carefully crafted tones and sounds creates an emotional and visceral journey for the listener, confronting the uncomfortable and immersing them in a world of haunting and unsettling soundscapes. Through an unapologetic exploration of the darker side of human emotion, Tzusing seems to capture the raw energy and primal instincts that lie just beneath the surface of our everyday lives in a way that surely gets our blood pumping.