me:mo: Peking Scene
mü-nest / PLOP

No album in recent memory has struck me as being more perfectly attuned to the early morning than Zhai Ruixin's latest me:mo album, Peking Scene, a collection of nostalgic moods and affectionate memories composed as an elegy to the city. The Beijing-born electronic producer has been issuing material since his self-released album Demo appeared in 2003, which he then followed with releases in 2006 and 2007 (Static Scenery, Acoustic View) leading up to the warm electroacoustic breeze that is Peking Scene. On the eleven-track album, guitars, vocals, and electronics blend into sparkling song settings that are dreamy, warm, serene, and graceful, often all at the same time. Song titles such as “I Also Yearn” and “Dream Side” convey the music's character all by themselves.

“Intro” even feels like the day waking anew when its sparse guitar lines sleepily resound, followed by the morning sounds of the city's birds, people, and traffic outside an apartment's window. “Memories of Peking” waxes nostalgic with wistful waltz rhythms tinged with delicate, jazz-inflected guitar figures augmented by Ruixin's equally soft vocals and sparkling electronics. An unexpected left turn occurs midway through, however, where the music suddenly picks up speed, its spindly guitar lines resembling in some tangential way the buoyant pop sound of African juju. “Quiet Dormancy” and “Comfortable Courtyard” cultivate moods of quiet splendour, while “Radio Moment” and “A Little Sad Song” exude quiet jubilance and gentle melancholy, respectively. At album's end, the slow tempo of “Jin Shi” and its graceful blend of melodica and guitar playing makes for a particular lovely exuent.

Ruixin has a soft spot for 3/4 time, as evidenced by its appearance in a number of tracks, and consequently the album often possesses a lulling character associated with the waltz form. I can't think of a better album choice for starting one's day than Peking Scene. From its opening moments to its last, the collection sets an endearing mood of gentle uplift and positivity that's, regrettably, all too seldom heard.

January 2011