There was a time when Alex Zhang Hungtai’s presence was recurrent at ZDB. Living in Lisbon for a season, he made friends here, kept an eye on his surroundings, and gathered experiences and life with a discreet presence that also led him to become entangled with some of our luminaries of the most uncatalogable and misaligned music that are advancing forms on this side – in particular with David Maranha and Gabriel Ferrandini. Being in relentless pursuit, meanwhile relocated to the United States, hence has erected a pulsating oeuvre that makes it unnecessary to resort to ‘Badlands’, the 2011 album that catapulted him as Dirty Beaches into a kind of indie stardom, to arrive at a pivotal and defining moment in his music of the now. The dark songs have remained in the past, buried under that pseudonym, and there they wait to be disenchanted when you need them. Hungtai has long been in another space. Always liminal.
Assuming his own name and using saxophone, piano, electronics, and percussion, the Taiwanese-origin musician has collected shadows, debris, and pulses of jazz, minimalism, improvisation or the most austere environmentalism to hover over music that from uncertainty became very much his own with ‘Divine Weight’. Released on the then vital and since deactivated(?) NON-Worldwide in 2018, it was like a revelation of the ghosts – not always benign – that had been haunting him after the capitulation of Dirty Beaches: themes of hypnosis and langor, raised from attempts at compositions for saxophone that never came to be and transmuted into an ethereal flow that no longer has little of its origin, only the mist of his memories. Emotional and, we are already here, cinematic, ‘Divine Weight’ is the basis for a work that in the meantime assumed the composition of soundtracks as a primary craft, such as ‘August at Akiko’s’ and already this year ‘Godland’.
In his return, the “American friend” presents himself at Aquário on saxophone and piano. A clear indication of future work that is being rolled out at a pace of its own. BS