Exposé Online banner

Zhongyu — Zhongyu Is Chinese for Finally
(Moonjune MJR078, 2016, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 2017-01-22:

Zhongyu Is Chinese for Finally Cover art

What first hits me as a listener on the album opener “Apple of My Mind’s Eye 2” is the strong Chinese influence, in the instrumentation, scales and percussion used, which should be no surprise when one realizes that the two principals in the band Jon Davis (Chapman Stick, guzheng, keys) and Dennis Rea (guitars) have both spent good portions of their lives living inside China, soaking up the cultural influences and music. Here, and throughout the twelve cuts presented, those influences are intertwined with a strong chamber rock feel, sometimes vaguely reminiscent of Starless era Crimson, Present, and others, though nothing to be found here sounds derivative in any way. The band also includes James DeJoie on baritone sax, flute, and bass clarinet, reinforcing the band’s chamber feel in conjunction with Alicia DeJoie’s violin, with Randy Doak’s drums providing a solid rhythmic connection on a number of levels. The push and pull of Eastern versus Western sensibilities might recall some early Jade Warrior infused with occasional Forrest Fang, but the hard driving moments on this all instrumental set are nothing short of take-no-prisoners avant rock. All these forces pulling and pushing in opposite directions makes for a powerful mix that brings home a unique musical vision that cross-pollinates a wide spectrum of ideas. Some of the pieces like “Sleepwalking the Dog” seem to be borne of improvisation, while others like “MBBL” and “Torture Chamber of Commerce” offer a more composed feel. There’s a lot of excitement to be found from one cut to the next as all these ideas compete and vie for prominence. Overall, this is definitely a strong opening statement from a band with a fresh approach.


by Henry Schneider, 2016-07-02:

Zhongyu is the musical project of Exposé’s own Jon Davis (noted reviewer and our web master). About ten years ago Jon spent three years living and working in Beijing, China and that immersion experience revitalized his enthusiasm for music. On returning to Seattle in 2009 he continued to explore non-standard structures and tonalities, eventually connecting with kindred spirits Rik Wright (Zen Tornado) and Dennis Rea (Moraine) and forming Zhongyu. The result, “finally,” is Zhongyu, an interesting and adventurous East Meets West fusion of jazz, progressive rock, and Chinese music. Jon brought home with him a guzheng, the Chinese traditional plucked musical string instrument that is much like a zither. Jon is quite accomplished on the guzheng, that he also plays in a non-traditional mode with a bow. Zhongyu's twelve instrumental tracks explore multiple genres. The opening track “Apple of My Mind’s Eye 2” is an experimental track with heavy use of reverb, gongs, and sweeping analog ARP sounds. And there is a hint of a melody in there as well. The next track “Torture Chamber of Commerce” launches right into complex progressive jazz with distorted guitar, Jon’s Chapman Stick, and percussion. Fans of Present will love this track. The third track “Iron Rice Bowl Has Rusted” prominently features Jon on the guzheng, creating a hauntingly beautiful example of Chinese influenced progressive rock. Track four “Hydraulic Fracas” starts out slow with flute and some dissonance, that slowly grows on you to culminate in another fusion of world music and progressive jazz rock. This should give you a good idea of the range of music on the disc. Other noteworthy tracks are “Half Remembered Drowning Dream” which is an amorphous tone poem that sounds like it is trying to build to something, but never quite gets there, much like what you may experience when trying to draw together those elusive threads and thoughts upon awakening from a dream. Then there are the comparisons to Jade Warrior that I note on “Sleepwalking the Dog” and the closing track “All Food Comes from China.” I could go on, but suffice it to say, Zhongyu is an excellent album and something you probably have not encountered before. And since we at Exposé strive to bring attention to new and unusual musics, by all means check out the musical efforts from one our own.


Filed under: New releases , 2016 releases

Related artist(s): James DeJoie, Dennis Rea, Zhongyu / Super Z Attack Team

More info

Latest news

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more

2018-11-02
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more

2018-10-17
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more

2018-09-29
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more

2018-09-25
Help the Psychic Equalizer Avoid Extinction – Last year we reviewed the debut album by Psychic Equalizer, a musical project of Hugo Selles. He's now working on the ambitious follow-up to that release, and is seeking funding from listeners around the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Lambert and Nuttycombe - At Home – Been waiting a long long time for this gem to arrive on CD. Craig Nuttycombe and the late Denis Lambert got their start as a folk duo in the Los Angeles area after years of playing in a number of...  (2008) » Read more

The Load - Load Have Mercy – The story of The Load is a familiar one. A talented and uncompromising young band records an album's worth of material, takes it to a number of different record companies, they all say they like...  (1996) » Read more

Franco Leprino - Integrati... Disintegrati – Although armed with an arsenal of synthesizers, Leprino's album isn't really a true electronic album in the same sense that Tangerine Dream is, but a very individual music with avant garde...  (1995) » Read more

Kayan Kalhor / Erdal Erzincan - The Wind – Merging Turkish and Persian world music influences together is the basis for this culturally compatible musical meeting. Kalhor was acclaimed for his kamancheh playing on The Rain while...  (2007) » Read more

Wappa Gappa - Yamatai Koku (AKA Wappa Gappa) – Combining elements of several types of rock into one package, Wappa Gappa touches on just about everything. Vocalist Tamami Yamamoto is a mezzo with a really smooth voice, and she typically sings...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues