Published Sep 25, 2019Melbourne, Australia musician and visual artist Sui Zhen turned heads in 2015 with her stylistically eclectic sophomore album, Secretly Susan. A new titular character takes the stage on her latest, the satisfyingly deep and pleasantly bossa nova-inflected Losing, Linda.
Like so many albums these days, it deals with questions of technology, selfhood and mortality, but sets itself apart somewhat by a central conceit revolving around Linda, a sort of digital double of the artist who chimes in unexpectedly from time to time in an uncanny timbre — a clever touch. It makes for a mature and contemplative listen, full of layered arrangements and quirky details.
Things start slowly but confidently with ethereal and effects-laden opener "Another Life" flowing seamlessly into "Natural Progression," in which Sui Zhen explores her techno-futurist themes most fully, asking the listener at one point if they might not need "a symbol so you won't be scared," once she's arrived at whatever post-human state she's heading towards.
Things suddenly become very organic on "I Could Be There" however, when a playful and unexpected stab of brass ushers in a mid-album suite of tracks full of ornate horns and woodwinds. It gives the album a real beating heart, and structures it to reflect its themes perfectly as well — another deft choice. The pleasant island rhythms of "Different Places" soon follows, adding yet another stylistic mode to this varied album, and an '80s-tinged instrumental closes things nicely.
As a vocalist, Sui Zhen is a restrained and intelligent presence throughout, often slipping into a spoken, conversational style to fully explore her thoughts, most notably on "Being A Woman," where she addresses society's expectations of female conduct with a distinctly 21st century twist, folding it into the sexually transcendent ethos of her techno-futurist vision with ease.
Losing, Linda is definitely an album meant to savour and ruminate over, with repeat and ideally fairly attentive listens recommended. After a few of these, its purposeful structure will pull you through, and fans of serious, adult-oriented pop will be glad they stuck it out. (Cascine)