Taken from her upcoming album Losing, Linda, “Matsudo City Life” channels the likes of Robyn and Cocteau Twins as Sui Zhen combines dreamy and ethereal vocals with buzzing synths. The idea of feeling alone in a densely packed city clouds the sonic landscape of the song, and as Zhen explains, “In cities so dense it's strange how everything can still feel so far away.”
The track epitomises some of the most vital themes of Losing, Linda, such as how human identity and mortality can become tainted and confusing within the context of our technologically-motivated world. The darker tones of some of her material was prompted by illness in Zhen’s own family, something she was dealing with during the making of the record. “There’s moments that occurred that haunt me still,” Zhen says.
Zhen recorded the song in a Japanese Love Hotel in Matsudo, which informed much of its insular, claustrophobic tone. She explains: “I wanted to capture the oppressive humidity and repetitiveness of life in a small sleeper town on the outskirts of Tokyo. From deep within the thick concrete walls of the old Love Hotel we inhabited I tried to conjure an escape. From the Pachinko parlours, the same chain stores surrounding the train stations and the constant quest for convenience. I walked for a long time along those canals counting koi. We set off some fireworks by the river near some tall grass.
“One night I felt adventurous and I rode a bus to a Super Sentō. I got a bit cocky and didn't cover my tattoos. Surely, no-one would notice in such a busy bathhouse. But I was wrong. Being kicked out of somewhere, by somebody else's grandma whilst naked is a humbling experience. In Matsudo, I had something to rally against.”
This time spent in Japan also acted as inspiration for much of the recording process, with Zhen exploring Matsudo and contemplating the area’s reputation whilst working. As Zhen explains, “The city was what locals call a 'sleeper town' or bedroom community, which Salarymen would use only for rest. In some ways it was a city full of their dreams and empty of their reality.” This is evident in the dreamy feel of the track, which evokes the complex and palpable atmosphere of such a busy yet lonely city.
Sui Zhen is also preparing an interactive ‘digital ecosystem’ to coincide with the upcoming release of Losing, Linda, which will allow listeners to further immerse themselves in Zhen’s experimental pop musings on life in the digital age.