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Fishdoll – Noonsense

Dan Webb

Sungenre Album of the Month – February 2018

Beijing expat singer-songwriter and producer Yuyu Feng (Fishdoll) has delivered a truly incredible debut album worthy of every bit of your attention. Her vocals are very reminiscent of Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano, and her electronic, sample-based production style is at times similar to that of Flying Lotus. And yet, on Noonsense, the current Brooklyn, New York resident displays a curiosity and willingness to explore fresh new ground. This album combines elements of electro-soul, jazztronica, RnB, trip hop and synthpop, however, in never really settling for any one of those styles, it makes for a very compelling listen.

“Toehead” serves brilliantly as the opener, striking a great first impression of this talented artist, with layer upon layer building and evolving in disorienting fashion. Watery, telephonic synths glisten and reel the listener in, while Fishdoll’s silky smooth vocals enchant. “Beijing Well” starts with a sampled male speaking in French before the sound of someone changing a cassette tape interrupts his monologue. A frequency shift then serves to introduce a steady, deep, downtempo groove oozing with cool. Her vocals feel close and soft at the start, then impeccable vocal harmonies creep up as the track progresses.

“Rice Wine” is an upbeat track which makes extensive use of a reverse tape effect. Sampled horns stab with unpredictability while sampled strings, sometimes with a low-pass filter applied, provide a flowing undercurrent. The strings and vocal coupling in the short bridge is somewhat reminiscent of moments on Marvin Gaye’s hit concept album What’s Going On (1971). “Bubbling Bop” immediately calls to mind Flying Lotus – a watery, bubbling synth with a percussive shaker features in the intro, before a pulsating beat and layered vocals take over. “Blueeyce” prominently features glissandi keyboards but doesn’t go anywhere in particular, serving more as an interlude, a signifier that the middle point of the album has been reached.

“Ripples of Mortal” is an abstract track which bares a jazzy vocal melody, seemingly skirting around the keys in which the song is written, refusing to comply or stay grounded. “Black Feather” is delicately constructed, featuring sustained, bell-like Fender Rhodes keyboard tones over pitch-shifted and looped samples. A creeping, evolving bass line over a simple yet effective chord progression near the halfway mark adds an element of unpredictability. Sustained vocal effects build suspense and tension, before a gentle, soothing synth rounds out the track with three chords.

“Pandaluya” offers the deepest, heaviest groove so far. The track features Los Angeles-based pianist Lionmilk alongside Greek drummer Panagiotis Kostopoulos. Finally, “Bekew” features frenetic acoustic drumming, an impatient bass and a world music vocal sample repeated over atmospheric synth pads. The track changes tack for a more percussive feel midway through, before Fishdoll’s vocals make a welcome, albeit brief return in the album’s final fleeting moments.

At this stage, not much is known about Yuyu Feng, but with the release of her debut album she has proven she is an incredibly talented singer-songwriter and producer. The bio on her Soundcloud page proclaims “I make the sound of my sleepy dream,” and indeed the sounds on Noonsense bare a dreamlike quality, providing mysterious, unfolding, abstract sonic landscapes for one to dive into. She’s absolutely one to watch and no doubt we’ll get to know her better as her career progresses. Given the plethora of accolades received immediately upon release of this debut, hopefully she’s prompted and keen to release a quick follow up.