Home Music Pan Daijing: Jade 玉观音

Pan Daijing: Jade 玉观音

Solitude is colored by the questions it asks: how responsible are we for our distance from others, does it ever become a rejection of community, can that warmth ever be rekindled, and when does isolation slide into helplessness? Jade 玉观音 should then be alarming relevant this year. Pan Daijing’s second album is her place in isolation. But the Berlin-based experimental musician recorded it over the past three years, thus removing Jade 玉观音 from any endemic seclusion. It’s a plain of jagged footing where Daijing tries to find how autonomous she can be in a place dedicated to oneself. Her rejection of musical traditionalism forces her soundscapes to hold their own markings outside of any genre. The terms noise and drone both paint Jade 玉观音 as violent, something it’s very much not. Instead Daijing filters these harsh influences into episodes that share her isolation without imposing it.

Daijing describes herself as an outsider. She lacks any formal musical training. She taught herself all she knows, eventually developing the acumen to compose her own opera. In fact, the best analogue for Daijing’s experimental storytelling is Richard Wagner’s definition of opera, the combination of narrative and drama. There is a latent visual flair to Jade 玉观音 as if Daijing is drafting a soundtrack without a host film. The soundscapes are unsettling, strung into a portrait by someone more intrigued by the idea of horror than actively terrorizing. It is through this lens that Daijing dramatizes her ailment. Her compositions are informed by mise-en-scene with the visuals being represented by tense audio layers. If it feels constricting that’s Daijing’s intention, but it’s done to bring the experience into a world both parties can recognize as solitary.

Isolation binds Jade’s 玉观音 narrative together. Each component of the album references or reflects loneliness. Terse tracks with deadpan titles like “Metal,” “Ran” and “Dust,” exist with Daijing’s disconnected voice murmuring images of goats and oceans. When she’s less concrete she pleads and accuses herself: “I never asked you to stay…I can’t get out.” It’s through these vehicles that Daijing examines her complacency in her solitude.

It’s hard to enter these songs because many of them begin how they end. Drums open the crevice of “Clean” like someone pounding from inside a box. It’s an arresting track that grows more comfortable the longer one stays with Daijing’s distorted cooing. The space is thorny to observe, but Daijing is empathetic rather than accusatory. Jade’s 玉观音 success is that Daijing never imposes. She elects to depict her experience. She doesn’t assert anything one wouldn’t bring themselves. So Jade 玉观音 is a stretch of musical sensibilities that becomes more comfortable upon easing in.

Note that Jade 玉观音 cultivates spaces rather than moving pieces. Once aware of Daijing’s inclinations the album blooms into a delicate listen. It is made of noise. It captures noise, and sometimes the lack of noise, and it drones, but it never assails. Allow “Metal,” both the most momentous and the most disconnected track, to explain. There, Daijing commands a noisy swarm of bees that fluctuate density, sometimes as a thick coat and other times more scarcely. It is the most challenging track. Skipping to any segment implies coldness. However, when entering through the entrance and exiting through the intended avenue “Metal” ceases to be off-putting. The intention is still concerning but there’s peace that can only be found through submergence, which in itself is a key appeal to Jade 玉观音. Daijing’s production is so clean that the songs are harsher for her to create than to listen to.

Daijing conveys her isolation through measuring the inorganic spaces with humanistic expressions. This combination turns off-putting drones into meditations, like how she hums alongside the Chinese woodwinds that dot “Dictee.” It’s only uncomfortable like stepping into a hot spring for the first time. The water doesn’t change temperature, you just acclimate to it. By this the piercing drone tunings on “Dictee” are so small that they can be easily accepted. They’re not meant to infect. They just exist in the same space.

The only subject Daijing ever accuses is herself. Her seclusion is laced with self-doubt, how she is complicit in her solitude and how her solitude pins her down into water. It comes through multiple avenues like on “Dust.” When the percussion drops away Daijing asks the same questions in differing volumes and textures and sings and speaks and communicates through wordless hums. Her lack of emotional restraint endears. It makes the solid states into traversable membranes.

In a few moments Daijing’s remoteness claws at the skin. “Tilt” closes on an active attempt to harm. The obtuse electronic noises in the second half constrict the cultivated bubble. They are Daijing losing her grip, if ever so slightly. Thankfully, these outbursts are scarce. Jade 玉观音 benefits from the calmness of steadier, more evocative states. There is enough contrasting noise, spoken word, bubbling synths, and string blankets that overt intentions to distort are unnecessary. Jade 玉观音 is a train station, an experiential hub that documents how solitude contorts the mind, instead of a railway track shuttling passengers to preconceived destinations with gaps in the tracks.

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