Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Sui Zhen's Losing, Linda is a beguiling conversation between the futuristic and the traditional

"Losing, Linda"

Release date: 27 September 2019
Unnamed 28
26 September 2019, 11:49 Written by Erin Bashford
As soon as Losing Linda opens, it’s insistently clear that this project is alien.

Underwater, dreamlike sounds fighting with digitised, computeresque notes should feel incongruous; but here, it’s so gentle and contained, that the combat between nature and machinery is more like a dance than a battle.

It’s a natural soundscape, though, when Losing Linda is a record fronted by an AI character; on the album, Sui Zhen embodies the persona of “Linda”, a digital doppelganger. Themes of death and departure are echoed by themes of eternality and artificially; in a digital world, is anyone ever truly gone? The technological DNA we leave behind surely outlives any kind of personal DNA--on Losing Linda, these are the eternal questions Sui Zhen attempts to answer.

But answer, she does well. Opening the record with sparse, almost uneasy, modified vocal samples and warbling synth notes, on "Another Life", Sui Zhen immediately brings impermanence to the record’s focal point. Zhen’s sing-song, sweet vocals are a perfect antidote to the futuristic soundscape.

Yet by track four, "I Could Be There", the album seems to be more concerned with nature. There’s a slight bossa nova beat ushering the song along, and, married with the jazz-cafe vibe of the track, imparts a beautiful nod to more classical musical sounds. Zhen allows the bossa nova grooves to enjoy the spotlight here; her vocals are sensory and syrupy, like always, but it’s the infectious groove and occasional wind instruments that are the most memorable parts of the song. Plucky guitars and Zhen’s sugary-as-always vocals remain the centrepoint in following track "Mountain Song" - the contrast between traditional and futuristic sounds is not a gentle one. There’s no sense of blending - you’re not going to find an electronically warped synth riff mixed with a clarinet--but isn’t that the whole point?

"Being A Woman", the glorious already-released single from the album, is a remarkable conversation between this AI doppelganger character and her inner monologue. Built over a heady bassline and direct percussion, the track is concerned with sexuality, maturity, and gender politics. “When I grew up / I thought I had to be someone’s mother” discusses breaking away from tradition, furthered with “redefine sexuality / that’s how I’ll find my way”. In the song’s titular lyric, we see Zhen combat the struggles of being a woman: “you have to hold yourself / being a woman / before you hold yourself”.

"Different Places"' dub bassline and piano notes are the last taste of music already gone; with "Perfect Place", the penultimate track on Losing, Linda, Zhen’s vocals take on a robotic effortlessness. With spoken samples littering the track’s bridge and racing keyboard notes, this is a track that has headed for the future.

It’s strange when this happens, but sometimes as soon as you read a song title, you think, “yes”. "Night River Rider" is exactly one of those tracks; the panpipes, the electronic percussion, the sparse keyboard melody - everything about the construction of this song feels right. As the song fades into a mutated electronic riff, it becomes clear that this cut was the soundtrack to your return to a fictional futuristic home. Think of this album as the story of a digital doppelganger journeying through her futuristic, cyborg-esque reality, back to the present we currently live in, and you’re in for a magical experience. That is how this record is done best; it’s a story of the relationship between traditional and digital reality.

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