|谢天笑 (Xie Tianxiao)
Five years is a long time in rock music. The scenes and styles change quickly and you can't be sure that an interesting project will manage to constantly deliver good music. In China, for many reasons, it is not easy to keep oneself updated about alternative rock music. Therefore, it might happen that you casually discover that the most famous local artist in this genre (Xie Tianxiao), five years after his latest album (four if we take into account the 2009 EP "古筝雷鬼" – "Guzheng Reggae"), is about to release his new musical effort. The album was given as a present at his March tour.
"幻觉" ("Illusion") appears to showcase yet another Xie Tianxiao, different from how he was on his previous work "只有一个愿望" ("Just One Desire"). At that time, Xie was fascinated by reggae, often going on to mix it with Guzheng (a traditional Chinese string instrument). This time we are dealing with a more "modern" act; the cover gets back to a dark palette and the names of both artist and album just cover a very small area in the corners. The picture portray a sculpture of Xie’s head seen from the side, we can see its front part on the back of the jewel-case.
The main change here is the addition of keyboards, giving some kind of electronic feel to some tracks (especially "脚步声在靠近" – "The Sound Of Encroaching Footsteps") and enabling the band to rethink many others during their live acts. Nevertheless, the album feels less varied than the previous ones: despite some of the tracks being quite different from each other, the general atmosphere is that of a more coherent work, in this respect closer to the debut (which resulted more diverse in terms of music, although it was just recorded with three instruments).
Production is cleaner and allows us to clearly identify every element, no room for the raw RAGE which characterized the final moments of their first two albums (the closing track "让我走" still is one of the fastest-paced on this disc). Xie doesn't scream as much as in the past and everything sounds as if the band feels more confident about all the different influences and styles, while the previous album felt a little less coherent. However, this notion of uniformity can get a little boring after a while, when on the other works we were always likely to be surprised at the beginning of each song.
The lyrics still revolve around existential matters like the perception of reality or freedom of choice, as it is tradition in Xie Tianxiao’s conceptual world. On this album these themes get discussed again, after the relatively carefree lyrical moment of the EP.
In conclusion, "幻觉" is a well-played and produced work, showing yet another face of Xie Tianxiao. Not necessarily the most diverse of his career – or the hardest by any means – but a good album nevertheless, contributing to widen the repertoire of the band that basically founded alternative rock in China between the '90s and '00s.