Rainbow Chan

Rainbow Chan- Spacings (Silo Arts & Records)

Ever since she was caught dancing around in a shopping isle in the video for the arcade drum machine song  ‘Fruit’ (from Long Vacation EP), there was a hope of a free-spirited saviour of bedroom pop music with Grimes moving on to Stella McCartney fragrance adverts and MØ stocking up her DJ phone book. Yes, it’s possible that Sydney-based musician Rainbow Chan (who also producers her own work) could leave the DIY scene and follow suit but her first album Spacings should be cherished for displaying a consistent display of free-thinking ideas that continue from her preceding EPs: blending modern pop with black-sheepism.

Although classically trained in saxophone (hints in ‘Stretched’) and piano, it’s the 26-year-old’s arsenal of electronic sounds that intrigue and surprise. Like the meteorological phenomenon of the rainbow that makes up half her name, there’s parallel yet different layers that make up her album. Homogenizing tightly and heading in the same direction but containing different shades of music intelligence.

On the bottom layer, there’s a consistent beat of loops a kin to House music. This is most effective on ‘Work’. A track that encourages exercise, if not for it’s pulsating rhythm but for the motivational lyrics: “you’ve got to work harder.” The more lounge-inflicted ‘Last’ also benefits from the familiarity of the track’s foundations – including the repetitive line of “the honey on your lips is starting to drip” – but it also exemplifies the second layer of Chan’s rainbow; the inventive percussion and surprising production. In biographies of the Hong Kong musicologist, it has stated that she has thumb pianos,  glockenspiels and vintage toys in her locker and ‘Last’ contains a vibrating knock that sounds if she’s hitting a radiator. This becoming the hook of the song, perhaps illustrating that Rainbow Chan sees every noise as an opportunity for composition

Yet Rainbow Chan’s overall sound isn’t completely otherworldly as she blends unusual instruments such as music boxes & glockenspiels andclever oscillation such as slicing and tape-wipe with the mellow stuttering PBR&B of Banks (‘Pearled Into), the pop R&B of Mariah Carey (‘Shell’) with the twinkly electronica of Little Dragon (‘Pillow Talk’)Although admittedly the introduction of a Nicki Minaj-like rapper (HTML Flowers) on the otherwise enjoyable ‘Stretched’, is as unnecessarily disruptive as the rapping on Let’s Eat Grandma’s ‘Eat Shitake Mushrooms’ and proves that the combination doesn’t always work.

On the top layer of the rainbow is Chan’s self-confident voice. Influenced perhaps by the sound of her adopted country Australia, it’s clean and technically well-rounded (including voice holding on the thumb piano torch song ‘Coalesce’), ever-changing and shows no signs of her Asian heritage, despite confessing to listen to her grandmother’s tape collection. It’s a voice that’s flexible and inoffensive and could – in a positive way – be heard on TOP 40 radio . Showing that she may be into tricks and production magic but her vocal forefront can be more straightforward. However, one reason for this could be her eagerness to convey a powerful message lyrically on the album.

The title of the album Spacings, refers to the imprints that are left behind after a situation collapses and how this memento influences gratitude. It’s an intellectual concept invented by Chan but one that isn’t explored vastly other than in the context of love. In the end, the bedroom pop is enough to champion Rainbow Chan for now and express our gratitude for her existence in this genre.

 

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.