1. This Is My Heaven
2. Heroes Fall
3. This Is Now Our Home
4. Rock, Moon, Rain, Sea
5. Set Apart
Shaolin Fez are not so much a melting pot, more a bubbling cauldron of tikka masala, coq au vin, bean burritos, spaghetti bolognaise, baba ganoush and a couple of hotdogs. They’re the very definition of eclecticism. With roots in classical music, branching out into jazz and big band they’re a giant ensemble of 22 musicians.
This Is Now Our Home follows 2012’s album Calm Your Storm. They’ve taken a couple steps away from what was perhaps a mildly more commercial sound. This offering is a move towards something a bit more unique.
This Is My Heaven begins the EP with a throwback to a time I can’t quite place. A mixture of nostalgia from a variety of different memories which produce a sound I’ve certainly not heard before – a theme for me throughout the EP. Jennifer Palor returns on lead vocals with her unobvious jazz styles. She’s the ideal voice to tell the Shaolin Fez story being such a blend of musical sensibilities in her own voice – much like the musicality of the band. This song has the taste of musical theatre and uplifts at times like an opera aria. Tugging on all kinds of musical neurons.
Heroes Fall is far more commercial with the electric guitar and prominent flute section. Jennifer moves into a vocal piece a touch Talking Heads-esque. The bass lines are all jazz and when the verses move to a minimalist musicality and vocal there’s a beautiful building of the mood to the climax of the chorus.
Title track This Is Now Our Home brings a strong film score quality. Creating a vista of mountains and sea like the beginning of a film set on a secluded Asian island. Truly uplifting and touching for the rootless wanderers of our world, of which Hong Kong is home to many.
The musical theatre label keeps coming back to me on this EP and it comes to a head on Rock, Moon, Rain, Sea. Jennifer delivers another dark soliloquy, further enhancing said label. The strings here push and pull on the emotion of the song, carried along by the now characteristic bass line and horns. The more I listen to this EP the more I want to have a visual representation of their sound. I’d love to see Shaolin Fez work with a film maker or theatre director to bring their music to the screen or stage.
Final track Set Apart is more stripped back and simpler in its arrangement. The electric guitar again bringing a more mainstream sound. Jerald Vickers provides added vocal punch.
Jazz is a broad brushstroke and Shaolin Fez although classically trained and rooted in jazz, produce a sound which far exceeds traditional labelling. Unlike other bands who bring a variety of genres to the table, at no time do they sound cacophonous or confused. However, those beautiful uplifting sonic moments can be few and far between on this EP. This Is Our New Home is a cerebral stimulating sound rather than visceral, meaning, you’ll probably be smarter for listening to them.
– Simon Donald Jones