There will always be music that, for whatever reason, you don’t deign to listen to very often. Whether it’s not within your usual sphere of taste, or because it’s not especially cool right now is none of my business. Either way, with Bing Ji Ling, the nom de plume of NYC based some-time Phenomenal Handclap Band member Quinn Luke, it’s probably a bit of both. Of course that’s the beauty of music, and as a kind of hippy-esque 70s retro revivalist, Luke has his own distinct allure too.
Shadow To Shine is a inviting and whimsical fusion of Roxy Music-esque guitar lines and soulful vocals, of pop songs and psychedelia. Whether Luke considers himself a much needed refresh (Bing Ji Ling means ‘Ice cream’ in Mandarin) of these sounds, or he just liked the sound of the words we’ll never know, but the album succeeds for at least one of those reasons.
It’s definitely not the kind of album that will grab most listeners by the flowery lapels upon first listen. There are hooks and grooves, as well as an ebb and flow, but it’s also quite challenging in a way, never quite resolving to the chord or following the melody as you’d expect.
Still, tracks such as ‘Hypnotised’ prove that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It showcases the strength of Luke’s voice, features some very cool lyrics (“Some people like the taste of wine, open their bodies in the yellow sunshine/ or else they mess around with snow/ but dreaming’s all I know”) and a brilliant, jazzy, psyched out organ guitar and synth jam to round off the track. Opening track ‘Move On’ is another great example; It breathes and sighs of 60s sunshine pop brought bang up to date, replete with flute breaks, a pitch-perfect guitar twang and brass hits all over the place.
‘Shadow To Shine’ is actually a great album, although it’s easy to miss why on first listen. It’s not throwaway pop, rather it’s more akin to the more progressive rock and the sunny psychedelia of Emerson Lake & Palmer. As a prelude to the summer (or spring at least…) it hits the spot are, chances are, it’ll last you until the winter too. A great album, if you can look past your initial cool-filer skepticism.