Boomkat Product Review:
Amazing return from Alex Zhang Hungtai's Dirty Beaches; a sprawling double header opus of labyrinthine darkwave pop, knackered electronics and chamber experiments.
We've long been impressed by his work but this one is really something else, feeding forward the traces of dilapidated rockabilly, blues and garage that informed his brilliant 'Badlands' into a deeply captivating new sound more akin to Suicide, Andy Stott or Loren Connors. Crafted over the course of winter 2012 while living between Montreal and Berlin, it's leaden with heartbreaking gravity and existential self-reflection to often claustrophobic degrees but ultimately with a redemptive sense of catharsis that keeps it from sinking under the weight of his beautifully articulated misery.
It works as two albums conceptually linked but aesthetically cleft. The 'Drifters' half is driven by metronomic machine rhythms and hypnotically looped-up riffs haunted by forlorn vocals and Lynchian synth atmospheres, swaggering with a knackered but resolute sense of direction at times recalling Alan Vega at his glowering best, at others reminding of Tropic Of Cancer's emaciated, ghoulish presence. By the end of its eight tracks the gloom really sets in with 'Landscapes In The Mist', and at the point of no return the noirish suite of 'Love Is The Devil' takes hold; eight instrumental songs too depressed to speak, full of pining jazz-noir motifs, sepulchral keys, isolationist synth pads and heart-in-mouth string symphonies.
A minor masterpiece, no less.