Evade: Destroy & Dream

Kitchen. has earned a reputation for distinctive packaging design, and its latest release continues the tradition. In this case, a geometrically cut paper cover, which is attached to a grey board housing the CD, folds out to reveal a large poster-sized display of photos and text on one side and a cloud-covered image on the other. Needless to say, the cryptic experimental-pop sound crafted by Evade, an electronic-based outfit formed in 2004 in Macau and featuring vocalist Sonia Ka Ian Lao, guitarist Brandon L, and programmer Faye Choi, on its first full-length album is as unusual and arresting as the cover design. This forty-four-minute follow-up to the trio's self-titled 2009 EP memorably captures the balance struck between the mantras gently voiced by Sonia Ka Ian Lao (in her native Mandarin dialect Cantonese, though English translations are included) and the inventive backdrops conjured by alchemist Faye Choi. Brandon L also makes his presence felt, if comparatively more subliminally, by enhancing a song such as the dream pop elegy “Crush” with delicate guitar strums that nicely complement the becalmed vocal and background flow of white noise.

A good introduction to Evade's unusual style, the opener “Forgetting” backs an unadorned vocal delivery with a mutating array of samples, stuttering beats, and textures, while contrast is even more evident during “Untitled Dream” when the vocalist's serenading whisper is offset by a violent barrage of clatter and even screams. Inverting the conventional approach to pop song style, Evade generally opts to render the ever-changing background unpredictable and treat the lead vocal as the music's stabilizing anchor. One never knows what eccentric sound Choi will pull out of his electronic hand-bag, and consequently what would otherwise be a fairly straightforward song (the ballad-styled “Gift,” for example) turns into an ongoing series of left turns. Choi's critical role in the outfit comes even more to the fore during “Pavilion,” a purely instrumental exploration that melds dramatic sound fragments lifted from old Hong Kong films with strings and keyboard sounds.

The range of sound resources drawn upon is huge, with everything from a crow's caw to explosive eruptions threading their way into Evade's songcraft, and the range of styles is likewise fairly broad. “Love” finds Evade in dub-reggae mode with the lead vocal and a classic drum-and-bass pulse skewed by left-field sample interjections. “Seeking For Mr. Freud,” on the other hand, opts for a slow-burning, rather acid-funk ballad style, even if once again the smooth delivery of the vocal lines is disrupted by restless background mutations. Boosting the total running time are three remixes by Japanese producers Serph, FJORDNE, and Okamotonoriaki: the latter amps up the atmosphere in a dusty makeover of “Seeking For Mr. Freud” that also gives the song a hip-hop twist in its beat definition; FJORDNE recasts “Pavilion” as a boundary-pushing piano jazz meditation; and, at album's end, Serph adds traditional jazz elements to a rambunctious re-work of “Love.”

September 2012