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Wulijimuren - “Sun of UTC+8” (2018) review


Wulijimuren - Sun of UTC+8 (Self-released, 2018) review

The NYC-based prog rock artist Wulijimuren has debuted Sun of UTC+8, a prog rock album that treats the electric guitar like a storybook. Spanning 12 tracks, it’s a testament to his love of the instrument and its vastly eclectic capabilities. Drawing on melodic tropes heard in everything from Metallica to John Mayer to Michael Jackson, it appears to subvert and decontextualize the electric guitar. And rightly so. Originally from Mongolia, Wulijimuren seeks to reinvent our cultural associations. Or, at the very least, challenge them.

A quarter of the way through the album and my head is spinning with musical motifs. There’s a particular emphasis on Mark Knopfler-esque riffs. Tracks fade into one another without succinct transitions, creating the sensation of an endless guitar solo. And perhaps that’s the intention. For better or worse, the spotlight rarely leaves the lead guitar.

By “Ticket to Hometown” we arrive at some welcomed variation—no longer wading in 80s pop rock rhythms. The track’s key is initially ambiguous as synths skip along the periphery. A bass-heavy melody enters with a confidence that gives the song a curious dimensionality. My ears begin to relax. The texture is lighthearted and racing. Completely instrumental, it feels like a lost cut off Eno’s Another Green World. A pleasant day in the shade.

Another highlight? “Liquor of My Hometime,” while it does wander, makes a true home for itself. The backing instruments feel less like an amateur with a MIDI controller, and more like a cohesive musical outfit. Just remember: it’s one that’s interested in passive exploration rather than charting an explicit route.

Now almost halfway through the release and each track is feeling as though it has room to breathe, an important ingredient for any shining release. Transitions are bookended by field recordings—everything from livestock to muddled conversation. The collaging serves as a refreshing aside to balance out the heavy focus on just one instrument.

Wulijimuren seems to me to be best suited for the world of soundtracks. Onto “Dream of Blue Mountain” and the album’s title track, and it’s clear that what some may call songs are in actuality much closer to compositions. With the release being almost entirely instrumental, it seems to lend itself to a kind of cinematic soundscape. He proves himself a master at concocting an emotion, rather than stringing you along with the novelty of a typical song.

-Gabe Kahan
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