Life Elsewhere is a brand new collaborative album from The Shanghai Restoration Project, featuring electronic music producer Dave Liang, jazz vocalist Zhang Le, and multimedia artist Sun Yunfan. After having met one another in New York’s artistic community, the three began working together on various creative projects, which turned into more regular and frequent collaborations. Foreshadowing this full-length album, the trio released Mungbean Mash, a short two-track EP in 2015. With this brand new LP, the three talented artists take listeners on a 12-track voyage through a meticulously crafted, genre-defying soundscape that celebrates the embracing of life’s uncertainties.
Listen below to some of our favorite tracks off the new album, including an exclusive free download of “Reset” (Right click to download).
Over the years, the three have established a sense of rapport with one another through their frequent collaborations. Yunfan and Dave have partnered on multimedia performance projects that have been showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Midi Electronic Festival. One of the duo’s performances will also be showcased at the upcoming Amsterdam Dance Event. Zhang Le and Dave have collaborated on their own projects in the past as well; in 2014, they released The Classics, an aptly named full-length album that featured a collection of Shanghai jazz cover songs from the 1930s and 1940s.
On The Classics, Zhang Le’s vocals were considered to be the main instrument and Dave considered his electronic sounds as merely supporting characters. However, for the production of Life Elsewhere, Dave worked with Yunfan who pushed for a storyteller’s approach: identifying what story a song was trying to tell and then figuring out how best to tell it. As a result, the album incorporates more natural sound samples (teacups, crickets, the San Francisco wave organ, empty cans rolling through an alley) and live instrumentation (clarinet, indian mouth harp, trumpet) than previous SRP albums. The new album also doesn’t focus on Zhang Le’s vocals alone. Instead, her vocals and all the various instruments weave in and out harmoniously, painting a strong compelling narrative about their modern reinterpretation of farewells and about seeking out new experiences. “Historically, diaspora has a melancholy attributed with it. It is not healthy and is a dated way of looking at things. The concept and nostalgia is attributed to an old world,” Dave describes. “Nowadays, in this internet age where everything is interconnected, more and more people have the opportunity to travel to new places. As a result, people embrace uncertainty. It’s part of our life, and that’s something we wanted to explore.”
The melodies for Life Elsewhere were conceptualized by Dave, Zhang Le and Yunfan. But what ended up shaping the direction and overall tone of the album were Yunfan’s lyrics. “I feel like the lyrics are about telling people to not become complacent in life, but instead to go seek and explore unfamiliar territories,” says Zhang Le. Besides the lyrics, Yunfan also created the visuals for the entire album. and designed the CD packaging. She also shot the music video for “Joke” at a dam in New York, and produced all the digital animations and hand-drawn illustrations used in the live shows.
Life Elsewhere is a feel-good album that shatters the negative connotations associated with good-byes. Not only that, the album also advocates for people to stay hungry, urging people to never be content. For example, “Illusion of Me” is a heartfelt track about untethering from a previous version of yourself in order to become a better person. “Restless Feet”, as the name might suggest, is about traveling to unfamiliar places and being comfortable with the new experiences. The final song and the only cover on the entire album is “Song Bie”, a track that Dave feels like encapsulates the essence of the album. “Song Bie” is traditional Chinese farewell song, usually presented with a sense of heartache. But on Life Elsewhere, it’s transformed into a swing-style celebratory track with Zhang Le’s cheerful scat singing peppered throughout the song. “Song Bie” is actually dedicated to Zhang Le, wishing her well in her move to Europe, Dave explained with a smile. “We’ve known each other for five years and have travelled together. We’ve toured Russia, Indonesia, China. For us, it’s a celebratory send off. When we meet again, we’ll have that much more richness. It’ll contribute to future projects that we’ll want to do together.”
The new Life Elsewhere CD is now available exclusively online in the Neocha Shop. To pay via PayPal or international credit card, please check out through our Shopify. To pay with AliPay or WeChat, please visit our Weidian. Shipping is only available for customers in the U.S. and China.
Full Product Details:
- Imported physical copy of Life Elsewhere album
- Single-sheet accordion booklet in dual languages
Contributor & Photographer: David Yen
Videographers: Sura Tim, Sun Yunfan, Leon Yan, George Zhi Zhao
Additional Images Courtesy of Undercover Culture Music & Sura Tim
Music Courtesy of Undercover Culture Music