Howie Lee – 天地不仁 Tiān Dì Bù Rén Review

Howie Lee 天地不仁 Tiān Dì Bù Rén album cover

Beijing-based visual artist and producer Howie Lee released his last full-length recording for Do Hits, his co-founded label. The title is taken from a statement of the Tao Te Ching, a fundamental Taoist manuscript, which refers to Heaven and Earth (Tiān Dì) as those patterns indifferent to humans and their will.

In this sense, the album explores Chinese both natural and artificial environment trying to capture the feeling of being abandoned by it, through the darker shades of low frequencies pushed into the background layers. Along with the fear and disorientation that are provided, if the atmosphere is not continuously gloomy, it is tense and stressed out by tinkling strings and whistling woodwinds, which often resonate uncomfortably shrill.

The wide use of Chinese traditional music is Howie Lee’s style signature and here is combined with scattered sub-bass, mischievous percussive rolls and disembodied voices. He manages to bend the western trap and cutting-edge electronic influences to the point that the contrast between ancient and modern is erased; as well as the geographical boundaries, which dissolve thanks to Lee’s use of instruments and samples from different countries.

In line with his previous works, the music is inspired by the Far East digital landscapes, and due to its implementation of those cracked sounds that populate the internet as ghosts, it might be considered the soundtrack of Sinofuturism.

However, it fits into this context with an intimacy and a maturity that assure a representation devoid of any prejudice. It does not delve into the cyberpunk aesthetic moved by its trendy call, but by the urge of finding out what ‘layers of worlds’ are hiding. Without exceeding in complaining or parodic criticism, the whole piece is an inquiry on reality: embraces its contradictions from which it’s distilled a delicate sound of dizziness and desolation.

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Howie Lee – 天地不仁 Tiān Dì Bù Rén Review

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