Welcome to a land of extravaganza, mind your step and beware... be very much aware of everything that’s happening around you. Keep your senses open at all times and your dreams at hand because MONG TONG 夢東’s debut album is definitely an other-worldly psychedelic experience.
Brothers Hom Yu and Jiun Chi, a duo from Taiwan (also members from Prairie WWWW (落差草原 WWWW) and Dope Purple), have prepared for us a journey to the east-side of dreams, as their name MONG TONG 夢東 suggests, and through this trip we’ll venture into Taiwanese folklore combined with the 80’s media obsession with the supernatural. So it begins. A sweet yet intoxicating haze takes over, little by little, with Mystery 秘神’s Intro: it swarms with color, and sheds waves across our surroundings, slowly revealing this beautiful and very sci-fi scenario that we’ll be exploring throughout this debut. Mystery 秘神, the title track, persuades us with its hypnotic pace, as we follow we’re induced into a warm state of trance and awe; colors are rather saturated, the palette is very warm. Above these sceneries they’ve articulated a red sky, watchful, unchanging. The duo shares an obsession for the Taiwanese occult-inspired art and superstitious imagery, their artwork is the best example of this since it’s inspired by vintage Taiwanese book covers (Hom Yu runs an Instagram account dedicated to them here), and they’ve successfully translated this imagery into their music. Chakra, their first single, is truly a ride in between dimensions… we might be reaching a dangerous dimension with lots of delightful details lurking about. The listener might feel observed as we wander further in: witnesses, if not intruders, to this rarefied quotidian life; these musical sceneries are aware of our presence, they’re looking right back at us. A news reporter that appears to be describing a catastrophe caused by an oversized monster introduces Jou-Tau. This song flows smoothly, very well used to the surreal cadence Mong Tong has built throughout the album. This one flaunts insolently, emanating dense clouds of steam. Laser samples warn us from the casualties happening behind us, but if there’s debris, we’ve left it way behind. A great quality about MONG TONG 夢東 is how playful they are: videogame soundtracks have clearly influenced their work and they pay tribute to them with their samples and humor. 717 glistens sweetly back and forth, this one has a tender and romantic atmosphere to it, so tender that time becomes palpable; suddenly we’ve come to a stop, we stand still and open. The flow of time of this album is rather unique, it responds to its own and lethargic gravity, their landscapes are effective and memorable. Ancient Mars is definitely a highlight. Water leaks below its grounds; gravity has a lackluster effect on our motion; perspective throbs and stirs as we move along with a strained elegance. These grounds feel somewhat vacant as they deliver nebulous horizons with meticulous detail. The next thing we know is that we’re being chased in media res, and cornered in what appears to be a labyrinth of streets and buildings: A Nambra has awoken. The album ends with In the K Court. This last track seems to unlock a strange force, and, alike this whole album, is rather cryptic. MONG TONG 夢東’s Mystery 秘神’s narrative describes a mystical and intangible reality taking place all around us, like a lucid, yet rebellious dream.
-Tell us a bit more about the story behind your name and also, what is it that awaits the listener at the ‘east-side of dreams’?
MT: We simply love how it sounds! It can mean something totally different in different languages (Burmese, Cantonese, Chinese…etc. ), and we prefer the east-side of dreams In Chinese.
In this peaceful world of dreams, no judgment or morality are there, only music is the common language!
-Which elements fascinate you from Taiwan’s folklore and how did you incorporate them into your sound?
MT: Funeral music in Taiwan. The organ sound in this album is heavily used in our traditional funerals, or sometimes in Beiguan music (北管).
We used it like Mellontron, the iconic keyboard instrument in the first King Crimson album! That's why we focus more on the keys rather than guitars.
-Which are some of your favorite videogame soundtracks? How did videogame music influence your work?
MT: Golden Axe 2, Ecco the Dolphin, many Sega Mega Drive soundtracks are so classic. Instead of rock albums, sometimes movie or game OSTs are more inspiring, with more imagination for us.
-What’s the story behind Ancient Mars?
MT: This is the first song we made, and in some way this song defined how Mong Tong sounds. Imagine that thousands of years ago the Martians lived on ancient Mars, what would their soundtrack be like?
-And how about the story behind Chakra?
MT: The voice sample in Chakra was sampled from a famous reporter talking about aliens and Hinduism Chakra. So basically this is a song for those who love aliens TV and conspiracy theories!
-How would you describe your creative process?
MT: We always read and discuss things together. Crazy ideas come up accidentally but since we live together, we can make them happen in a very short time.
-Your music is rather visual and I can’t help but wonder about the actual landscapes that you like or that might’ve inspired you while making this album.
MT: We do have plenty of pagodas and temples in Taiwan! Like Dragon and Tiger Pagoda, Madou Daitian Temple or Sanzhi Seashell Temple, which are astonishing old buildings you should check!
-Would you tell us a bit more about Mystery, the song that shares its name with the record?
MT: The album name came out before the song was written, and we wanted a song with the same name! We wish this song would guide the listeners into the fictional world we built.
-And last but not least, would you give your listeners a clue as to how to solve the puzzle hidden in your cover?
MT: Hint: there’s a conspiracy theory called Q33 NY, that’s all we can tell!