Boomkat Product Review:
Flora Yin Wong returns with a stunning, highly evocative second album for Modern Love, manifesting her instrumental storytelling in a syncretic bind of supernatural themes. Where her debut album ‘Holy Palm’ catalogued exotic personal and spiritual travels captured over a 6 year period, ‘Cold Reading’ details the aftermath; the erosion of fantasy, a breakdown of belief systems, and an overwhelming sense of rootlessness. A surreal, tripped-out listen, it comes highly recommended if you're into Valerio Tricoli, Enya, Bryn Jones, soundtracks to Last Year at Marienbad and Inland Empire - all hyperrealist, concrète sound design and fritzed dream sequences.
Heavy with a sense of nightmarish dissociation and grief following an uncanny, dispiriting trip to East and Southeast Asia, Flora Yin Wong read about Giuseppe Tartini’s ‘Violin Sonata in G Minor’, aka the Devil’s Trill Sonata, a notoriously tricky c.18th composition which attempted to transcribe music heard in a dream. It’s this soporific motif that binds and underpins ’Cold Reading’, in which Flora chases the dragon of fleeting fantasy through sequences of etched melancholy, pinched with hypnagogic jerks that linger in the memory.
Through 10 parts, Flora crystallises a feeling of ennui that followed those travels, where she was taken to a Bazi reader (a form of Chinese astrology or metaphysics based on time and date of birth), whose augur left her feeling perplexed and alienated. She made a long overdue, ultimately unfulfilling, return with her father to his adoptive family in his hometown Kuala Lumpur, spent nights alone snowed in at a haunted house in Kyoto, and lodged with monks in a South Korean Temple. Images of these episodes flash through the album like a slow strobe, ghosted memories recalled with ever-decreasing fidelity.
From her use of the ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata in ‘All My Dreams are Nightmares’ through evocations of subtropical humidity in the Bryn Jones-esque, resonant hand-played percussion of ‘Konna’ and ‘Banjar’, to a breathtaking dreampop denouement ‘Nectar Dripping’ and the Enya-like lush of ‘Beautiful Crisis’, Flora blooms her ideas with an open-ended ambiguity so often missing from so called Ambient music, ushering the listener into a soundworld that disturbs and displaces, just as much as it calms.