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Posted June 24, 2008 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

Jong Pang Follows the Bright White Light

Ambition can play an interesting role in an artist’s production of their own music, especially during a dramatic period of stylistic transition. It sounds like common sense, but if one were to intricately shuffle through an influential artist’s entire discography, it would likely not prove very difficult to identify an ambitious peak. That being said, a high level of ambition does not always equate to success. Using a few commercially successful artists as an example: For every critically acclaimed classic like the sprawling White Album, there is usually something like Metal Machine Music that has warranted bashing since its release over 30 years ago. Both albums were considered ambitious peaks for The Beatles and Lou Reed, respectively, at the time but, while no one doubts Reed as being one of the greatest American songwriters of the late 20th century, the vision clearly did not work out for him in the instance of Metal Machine Music. Reed followed the disaster up with arguably his greatest album, Coney Island Baby, to immediately soothe concerns, consequently causing some to claim that the flawed nature of Metal Machine Music indirectly contributed to the success of Coney Island Baby. It is certainly a valid suggestion, if only for the fact that an artist’s level of ambition is something of a delicate nature that needs to be treated with care. In Reed’s case, past experience and failure likely led to him prevailing successfully one year later.

During its 8 year run, Moon Gringo established itself as one of the premiere indie-rock bands to come out of Denmark. Readers based out of the US and UK may scratch their heads at the name, but the six-piece saw substantial success in Denmark and several surrounding European countries due to a sound that was immediately infectious and satisfyingly accessible; take a listen to an excellent live version of “Mette Says No” on their MySpace for a great example of the energy and quality songwriting they conveyed during their run. One of the band’s leaders was a man by the name of Anders Rhedin, a songwriter who had a clear vision of success for the indie-rock sextet. Moon Gringo may not have been the most innovative group on the block, but their energy and irresistible array of hooks left few listeners hungry for more. Still, as a songwriter, Rhedin’s ambition began to get a hold of him. A fan of rock music all his life, he cut out the genre and started acquainting himself with a more diverse selection of music. “You know, I stopped reading music magazines, and stopped listening to indie rock,” Rhedin said in an interview. “I cut out what I had been listening to since forever, which was like European music and American music of the last 30 years.” He certainly holds no grudges against rock music, but after opening his mind up to a more eclectic set of composers, he grew and matured as a songwriter himself.

Influenced by composers as diverse as Arvo Part and Steve Reich, Rhedin recently formed Jong Pang in an effort to explore his increased diversity as a songwriter. “That was the idea behind Jong Pang: I wanted to see what Steve Reich would sound like if he was a rock band,” he explains. “I love the way that as soon as you listen to Steve Reich, a whole universe opens up, but if you just listen with one ear, it’s nothing.” With Jong Pang’s debut album, Bright White Light, Rhedin has successfully built a universe that coincides nicely with his own description of Reich’s expansive works. However, instead of toying with minimalism, Rhedin has remained within the realm of pop music, only this time with a boastful array of worldly influences that cause the final result to be unpredictable, engrossing, and wholesomely fascinating. Fans of Moon Gringo saw Rhedin’s undeniable skills as a songwriter nearly a decade ago, but Jong Pang marks the moment in which he has evolved and lived up to a considerable amount of potential. Rhedin serves as the brains behind Bright White Light but he also enlists the help of several other talented Danish musicians, a collection of over a dozen collaborators in which he entitles “The Jong Pang Collective”. The collective of collaborators also includes ex-Moon Gringo member Mette Hersoug.

With Rhedin’s diversified abilities as a songwriter fluidly coinciding with a group of collaborators who appear startlingly adept on both an instrumental and vocal level, Bright White Light is more than just an audible example of Rhedin’s growth as a songwriter. With instantly accessible gems like “New Order” and “Small Cut Sensations” leading the way, Rhedin manages to incorporate world influences within a style that remains generally accessible and never stylistically overbearing. The vocal performances on the album vary in both tone and gender, with Rhedin and others lending a leading role on a variety of songs. “New Order” sees a male-female duet emerge under the wispy undercurrent of a synth pad and guitar progression. A serene opening evolves into a distorted flurry of hectic rhythmic involvement and dynamic guitars, eventually backed by a choir-like sound that penetrates the barrier of sound nicely. “New order, you build a new order,” the vocals repeat, appropriately embracing independence as something of a spiritually empowering entity. “Small Cut Sensations” is a very rewarding track that combines exotically invigorating Japanese strings with a rhythm section that vigorously builds its way to success. Similarly laced female vocals are the lead here, being at their best after an acoustical bridge laces together the intensified string arrangement during the track’s concluding moments. With other highlights including the tinge of post-punk tremolo on “Free”, a shoegaze influence on “Scream Cikada, She’s Home”, and the epic build-up in “You Are the Battle: Tender”, there is not one wasted moment on the diversely impressive Bright White Light.

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Jong Pang – Small Cut Sensations

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/jpang-sma.mp3]

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Jong Pang – New Order

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/jpang-new.mp3]

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Jong Pang – Free

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/jpang-fre.mp3]

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Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].