LUCINDA CHUA ANNOUNCES DEBUT ALBUM ‘YIAN’ – MARCH 24th VIA 4AD
ANNOUNCES HEADLINE LONDON SHOW AT ICA – MAY 9TH
TICKETS ON SALE FRIDAY 27TH JAN
London-based artist Lucinda Chua shares the new song and accompanying short film, “Echo” announcing her debut solo album YIAN, out March 24th via 4AD. Lucinda also announces her biggest headline show to date, at ICA, London on May 9th. Tickets go on sale Friday 27th January here.
If Chua’s 2022 release “Golden,” written from the perspective of her younger self, was the meditative prelude to the world of YIAN, then her new single “Echo” places us firmly in its first chapter. A pop song about ancestral trauma, “Echo” is the antihero’s journey, walking the line between respect for the past and the freedom to carve out a new future. (“I won’t carry your shame / Won’t be your echo again… I couldn’t be anyone else / I look to you, I see myself”). Chua delivers with her uniquely intimate, yet otherworldly sound in this self-produced and engineered song, capturing sensuous echoing harmonies and delicate soul-infused piano.
Following intensive studies in Chinese dance forms, Chua joined forces with film director Jade Ang Jackman and movement director Chantel Foo to create the visual for “Echo”; Chua’s take on a choreographed pop MV. The short film is a moving and innovative homage to Chinese fan dance and martial arts; an internal journey through the shifting seasons of emotional weather. Grounded by a stone circle, Chua dances with her handmade Chinese silk fans as the mood shifts from thorny rose garden to blizzard. “Sometimes I think we are all just footprints in the snow,” Chua says.
The release follows her sold-out show at London’s Purcell Room and her appearance at Pitchfork London opening for William Basinski last year.
“YIAN” (燕), means swallow in Chinese, and is part of “Siew Yian,” the name given to Chua by her parents to preserve her connection with her Chinese heritage. Just as the migratory songbird lives between places, so did Chua, the artist living in the in-between of the English, Malaysian and Chinese cultures that make up her heritage. In the absence of Mandarin as a mother tongue, music became a way to express the parts of herself that couldn’t be described in words; “YIAN” emerged as a way to heal.
A deeply introspective and fully realized vessel of creative expression (Chua self-produced and engineered eight of the ten tracks), “YIAN” emerges as less an album than a worldview, a commitment to learning and uncovering one’s own selfhood honed over Chua’s lifelong reconciliation with her own personal history and identity.
Through this process she found new language through which to express her experiences, language which lay in the practices she developed and the creative community with whom she built solidarity along the process: co-authoring visual identities with main collaborators Tash Tung, Jade Ang Jackman and Nhu Xuan Hua and set designers Lydia Chan, Jonquil Lawrence and Erin Tse. Chua also constructed the album’s physical language through dance with movement directors Chantel Foo and Duane Nasis, this expression shown most vividly through the short film made for “Echo”.
Pre-order YIAN here and check out the tracklist and watch “Echo” below.
March 24, 2023
2. Meditations On A Place
3. I Promise
5. An Ocean
6. Autumn Leaves Don’t Come
8. Do You Know You Know
9. Grief Piece
10. Something Other Than Years
Lucinda Chua Live
09.05.23 – ICA, London
The swallow is a migratory creature, a songbird that flies between its homes in two places. Artist Lucinda Chua has a different idea about them. “Maybe swallows actually live in the sky. Maybe the infinite sky is where their home really is, and those land masses that they fly between are just resting points. They’re untethered – if you belong to the sky, you can belong everywhere.” It is from this idea that Chua’s debut solo album, “YIAN”, takes flight.
Chua sees this essence of the swallow mirrored in herself, and ingrained in her name. “Yian” means swallow in Chinese, and is part of “Siew Yian”, the name given to Chua by her parents to preserve her connection with her Chinese heritage. “YIAN” takes its name from these confluences.
Building on the warm, elemental soundscape of 2021’s Antidotes EPs and the moody, elegant timbre of her cello, Chua self-produced and engineered 8 ofYIAN’s 10 tracks, spurred on by a call to true artistic integrity and authorship. A deeply introspective and fully realised vessel of creative expression, “YIAN” emerges as less an album than a worldview, a commitment to learning and uncovering one’s own selfhood honed over Chua’s lifelong reconciliation with her own personal history and identity.
“The record echoes my search for an ‘unknown’ part of myself, something I inherited but didn’t fully understand”, Chua says. Born to an English mother and a Chinese-Malaysian father with part indigenous Malaysian ancestry, she grew up in the English town of Milton Keynes. Her parents did not speak Mandarin, and her surroundings lacked a strong Asian community or role models who looked like her. Imposter syndrome and outsiderdom weaved themselves into the fabric of her identity, leaving her feeling caught in-between and even inauthentic. But how can one be inauthentic as themselves?
Chua began her work on YIAN in search of the missing piece, for an answer to the disconnect from her Chinese heritage. “Who do I turn to, when I don’t look like you?”, she whispers softly on “Golden.” The song begins as a quiet, uncertain call from Chua singing alone to the universe. But soon Chua is joined by her friends, musicians Laura Groves and Fran Lobo – “To be the first, to be the first”, they sing together. Their voices conjoin, lifting the song into a luminous, anthemic entreaty to Chua’s younger self – to show forgiveness for the grey areas inside her, and to feel proud of that precious space and all the possibilities it promises. “When the sunlight hits me / I’m golden you’ll see.” What began as a series of questions, a longing for wholeness, ended up leading Chua to a different set of answers. “I learned there is no missing piece. Wholeness comes through the experiences we uncover throughout our entire lives, the things we’ll learn about ourselves. It’s about making peace with the empty space inside of us, and holding space for the growth that allows.”
Like it always has, music served as a framework for Chua to heal. In making YIAN, she found new language through which to express her experiences, language which lay in the practices she developed and the creative community with whom she built solidarity: co-authoring visual identities with main collaborators Tash Tung, Jade Ang Jackman and Nhu Xuan Hua and set designers Lydia Chan, Jonquil Lawrence and Erin Tse, singing with Singaporean artist Yeule on Something Other Than Years, constructing narrative through dance with movement directors Chantel Foo and Duane Nasis. “I thought about my younger self and what I didn’t have. I can’t change the past, but I can try to create a piece of language that allows somebody else to feel seen and heard.” As Chua sings over sensuous harmonies and delicate soul-infused piano on Echo (she calls it a “pop song about ancestral trauma”),“I won’t carry your shame / Won’t be your echo again… I couldn’t be anyone else / I look to you, I see myself”. Closure arrived not in the form of neat answers, but through the work itself.
Chua wanted the album to be in her voice – not just her singing voice, but in every soundmaking choice from instrumentation, to effects processing, to how she set up each mic in the room. What results on YIAN is a distinctive and peerless sound of Chua’s own, flowing directly from her fingertips, unconstrained by convention. “It’s that feeling of untethering”, she considers. “Decolonising the mind from the idea that there’s a singular way of doing things. Feeling led form, for me: a lot of the engineering choices were to make me feel safe in the studio being vulnerable about my experiences.” Conscious to hold space within her music for people to live inside, Chua thought often of YIAN’s sound in terms of sonic spacing. The hushed, flickering tones of Autumn Leaves Don’t Come and swelling strings of instrumental Grief Piece sound completely intimate, like she’s singing into your ear, yet capacious, like soft cocoons of sound. “For me, the music is like a home.”
Cultivating a Chinese dance practice is as much part of the story of YIAN as the music itself. Chua returned to dance after struggling with the conservative constraints of ballet as a child, finding intuition and affirmation in the fluidity and naturalism of Chinese classical, fan & ribbon and contemporary. Dance is entwined in the very texture of YIAN, with Chua undertaking deep study of Chinese dance forms whilst working on the album – the Echo music video, Chua’s take on a choreographed pop MV, is a moving and innovative homage to Chinese fan dance, martial arts and the elements. Visually, the video is also inspired by the cult movies Chua grew up with (think Lady Snowblood, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Kill Bill, The Grudge and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), whose hyper-stylised female Asian characters were some of the only on-screen representation available to Chua in her formative teenage years.
YIAN is as much an unpacking of Chua’s identity as a reinvention of it, a new way of seeing, pieced together through the practise of her artistic craft. “It’s like what I do with the cello, a classical instrument with so many historic undertones – running it through the pedals, changing its voice, playing it standing up, hacking with the meaning and symbolism of it. I respect the past, yet build upon it in my search for a feeling of freedom.”
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