In the opening moments of Victoria Cheong’s latest album as New Chance, there’s a sense of disorientation within the woozy electronic tones of “Eye of the Storm.” Each chord slightly shudders under gentle vibrato, the cadence climbing a rickety ladder against a floating backdrop of her voice in layers and a rising bassline. Questions about belonging beleaguered by internalized insecurities creep through “Eye of the Storm,” a sentiment that echoes throughout Real Time.
The Night-Blooming Cereus gracing the cover of Real Time belonged to Cheong’s grandfather and the plant’s duality drives the album’s narrative. Much of the production work is stripped back and stark, the wilted plant after the bloom, while New Chance’s vocals will light up any room. “To the Edge” and “Earth House (Turning)” both lie in this space, deep bass grooves and caustic beats offset by her effervescent voice. The juxtaposition is so disparate at times, it’s incredible how she makes it work. While the rhythms blitz the scene, New Chance bounces across the darkened waves, captivating. The pull to let go sidles up to the fear and anxiety of showing that vulnerable side, trying to break free.
So much of Real Time jumps between frenetic, dancefloor energy and meditative singing and spoken word that it’s easy to get lost, but the clarity of her vision keeps focus. Backed by chirping birds and organic sound, “Fallen” is a standout. It’s not quite a capella – a quiet, whirring synth loop hovers in the distance – but the simple vocalizations she uses to build the rhythm and the lead melody harken back to ‘60s pop. It’s a beautifully hypnotic passage and the combination with the airy synths and field recordings make it modern, unique. Real Time is grounded even when it soars to the cosmos, like when the effusive and emotive sax by Karen Ng on “Two Pictures” blasts through.
Guiding Real Time is the feeling of a connection to each other and the world around us. New Chance says she wanted to create a “transitional reality check where you can ask questions,” and that’s what Real Time does. Through examining the elements that make up this sonic narrative, we don’t necessarily find answers, but we can unearth what direction to move next. New Chance is just getting started down her own path.
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