1. Intro/The reflection (映現)
2. Pupil (瞳)
3. Homeland (故土)
4. Ink (墨)
5. Autumn (秋曰)
Hong Kong’s Cantonese music scene has always been one of fusion, styles come into the city and go out something completely different. Historically, Hong Kong absorbed a large amount of American and British popular music but with continuously shifting dynamics within the music world, over the past decade or two, Hong Kong’s scene now become one of Japanese and Taiwanese influences. Why I mention this history is because Yeuk Yeung’s premier album ‘From Past To Present’ is not what you’d expect. It’s an incredibly creative fusion of alternative heavy Cantopop, pop ballads and electro-pop but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a chill walk in the park with slamming guitars and drums, Yeuk Yeung is actually a screamo artist.
This took my entirely by surprise. The opening song (aptly entitled ‘Intro’) starts off with several minutes of melancholy guitar work typical of a hard rock album but about three minutes again the singer begins to sing – or rather – he begins to scream. Nothing could have really prepared me for the surprise but it wasn’t a bad one, in fact his singing is incredibly rhythmic and manages to make use of what little melody you can muster when performing screamo. Later tracks introduce another voice, (or perhaps it’s actually just the same guy in a mask). This voice, which starts songs and occasionally interrupts the screaming voice, is a clean and melodic one. Though a little strained, the musical structure keeps the singing voice as a contrastive instrument, through this voice the listeners get to hear the lyrics clearly, listen to Yeuk Yeung’s smooth lyric writing and, for the less metal/screamo initiated – like me – get a break. In other occasions, the voices are synthesized and in 秋曰 (Autumn), the whole band sings but in such as way that it sounds like one voice echoing. For lack of better word, it’s very performative when the voices interplay, in 墨 (Ink), for example, they sing together. The interplay makes the two voices into two characters – a clean one, and a raw one – which in some songs like ‘Ink’ which has the two voices sing together on a metaphor comparing clean lotuses, ink and the pain of memory.
Aside from their powerful and creative use of the voice, Yeuk Yeung also shows mastery over instrumental writing. The thing I personally enjoyed the most was their occasional use of techno-pop inspired solos. In ‘Intro’, for example, after the first verse, the heavy guitar and drums are suddenly joined by a hip-hop drum machine and rhythm. Adding on another genre to the already complex songs may not be something that’s approachable to everyone, indeed his album is not what you’d call ‘easy listening’, but for those looking for something more interesting, Yeuk Yeung provides.
In short, ‘From Past to Future’ is a complex album layered musically and metaphorically. Yeuk Yeung’s performance style is powerful, raw, a bit dirty but oddly approachable. Their music is influenced by many different genres all of which interplay seamlessly in this very contemporary and very Hong Kong album. Highly recommended even for non-Cantonese speakers and non-scream fans.