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December 7, 2023

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Asa Chang & Junray
Junray Song Chang Leaf (Post Everything)

By: Mark Sullivan

I was driving my mother to her birthday dinner. I think Alpinestars was playing when she asked, "It this real music?"

I laughed and asked, "What's real music?"

She said, "You know, with real instruments and real voices, not like those electronic noises you play sometimes."

I switched discs and turned up Junray Song Chang by Asa Chang & Junray. I asked, "You mean like this?"

She listened for a few seconds and said, "Yes."

Most of the songs on this disc start benignly enough, with "real instruments." For instance, "Hana" opens with mournful strings, but they are soon overwhelmed by those electronic sounds that grate on my mother's ears. The vocals are heavily processed, forming the rhythm when they are synced up with tapped finger drums. This is the pattern for most of the tracks, pitting traditional playing, sometimes American (funereal New Orleans horns on one track, blues harmonica on another), sometimes Asian (various wind or plucked string instruments I can't identify, along with "real" percussion), against looped voices and sounds that form irregular beats, almost despite themselves. These are decidedly not dance beats, way too spasmodic for that, but they keep the listener involved, if a bit off kilter. So do the voices that make up many of those beats.

My mother asked if those voices were saying "real words." Since I don't understand Japanese, I had to admit that I didn't know. To me, it's all phonetic poetry, like that of the early Dadists Hugo Ball, Kurt Schwitters and Raoul Hausmann. Sometimes the voices are deadpan chanting; other times they sounds like chattering demons in the attic or inside your own head. There is a sinister tone to much of this disc.

Since it was her birthday, I switched to another disc (she liked the "real music" of the latest Cinematic Orchestra). However, after I dropped her off at home, I put Asa Chang & Junray back on. Although many of its parts sound familiar, the whole is unlike anything you've ever heard. And that's what I like about the best "unreal music." A

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