On Pi Sound, Chloe Yu Nong Lin unlocks new perspectives and possibilities for the traditional Chinese pipa and creates a stark, disparate world that is equal parts enchanting and scattered. Even using a fairly limited palette – she mixes in electronics as well – it is her intimate knowledge and skill with the pipa that drives the rich, chaotic soundscapes forward.
Technique is integral on Pi Sound. Lin improvises songs that flit between bone crushing and delicate, like leaves gently falling from a tree before someone comes along and torches what’s left. “Unacclimated” bounces between both sides as she lets notes hang for just enough time to shatter into a million pieces. Accented by sharp, gurgling electronics, it’s incredible what Lin can do with the pipa and what sounds she can pull out of it. Shards of concrete crash and clang in one instant while cavernous, reverb-soaked tones echo into oblivion. All of it depends on where the note is plucked, how gentle she presses down on the string, or some other less obvious approach to the instrument. It’s enthralling.
With songs like “Pitter Patter” and “Fluorescent Flow,” more traditional scales emerge from the shadows, only to be battered by fizzing noise and caustic, grating stabs of sound. Lin plays dissonant circular patterns on “BRB From the Moon” with the pipa while the electronics sound like glass circuits heating up underneath. Compositionally, this album is densely packed and requires multiple listens to peel back. Even so, Lin’s electroacoustic space will always find new ways to challenge you. Pi Sound is an exciting exploration of breaking tradition apart at the seams.