Shanghai Restoration Project is the brainchild of two Chinese-Americans from Brooklyn. They have been active since 2006, creating albums and singles that showcase their unique sound. This follow-up to 2019’s Flashbacks in a Crystal Ball continues their use of eclectic sounds, and their defiant refusal to be put into a single genre.
It’s an album created entirely under lockdown conditions. The duo were stuck in Brooklyn for most of last year, and so looked outside their windows for inspiration. The result is an album full of songs reacting to all the changes that happened in the course of 2020, for better or for worse. Some of the song titles make obvious references to what happened last year, like the matter-of-fact Zoom Christmas. Not all of them are immediately clear though – it’s up to you to listen to the songs themselves and figure things out.
Although the tracks are all recognisably by the same group, the album constantly keeps you guessing. Because the duo like to experiment and don’t like being pigeon-holed, they use a lot of different sounds.
Night Odyssey is the strongest track on offer. It feels very intimate – music for a darkened room and a pair of headphones. Odyssey is the right word for it – listening to it is like being in a car and watching the world (such as it is right now) go by. A close second is the danceable Involuntary Prophet. Definitely one for the lockdown balcony DJs. Put your headphones on and dance in front of the window. It’s remote, but also invites you to engage with it.
Previous albums saw the duo making political points, but the points made here are universal and more accessible to the average listener. Brave New World Symphony is a fantastic starting point for the band’s work, combining great music with their own political outlook.