Having recently announced her new album, Melbourne-based artist Sui Zhen is now sharing two remixes of the first single “Perfect Place“ by fellow Australians Roza Terenzi & Bell Towers. Sui Zhen’s new album Losing, Linda is due Sept 27thvia Cascine.
Speaking about how the Roza Terenzi remix came to be, Sui Zhen said “We met in Perth both playing a festival over there and she DJ’d at a house party I was at. I was super impressed with her focus and how much fun she appeared to be having. When I think about it I’ve rarely seen her not behind the decks. I love how creative and fluid she is in her approach to DJ-ing. There was no question I wanted to see what she might do with ‘Perfect Place’ and I am honoured to have had her make this remix. The broken electro style kick and fresh style she brings is super addictive. I love it”
And on the Bell Towers remix, Sui Zhen said “When I first heard Bell Towers remix of ‘Perfect Place’ I was in the complete opposite kind of environment to what the track conveys. A dusty flat country town an hour outside of Melbourne. It immediately transported me to the Mercat club that recently closed down in Melbourne. Relentless and deep it brings out aspects of the vocal that I really enjoy. In a way, maybe the dustiness of the country is felt somewhere in the driving kick, it’s soft around the edges still.”
Throughout Melbourne-based artist Sui Zhen‘s discography and performances, the experimental pop and performance artist has zoomed in on the intersections between human life and technology – how to exist in the digital age, as well as the ways in which we risk losing true sight of ourselves in the process.
Losing, Linda pairs her signature inquisitiveness with a surreal electronic pop that possesses a dreamlike quality: vivid, uncanny, and upon close examination, revealing of deep emotional and personal truths. It’s an album that examines loss on multiple levels – from the death of our loved ones, to our widespread societal tendency to disappear within the ones and zeroes of modern life’s tech-driven rush.
Losing, Linda‘s creation began back in 2016 when she took up an artistic residency in Sapporo, Japan. Zhen originally came to the residency equipped with demos conceived in the wake of her preceding breakout record, Secretly Susan – but real-life tragedy intervened, as her mother was diagnosed with cancer. In the process, a sense of overall mortality was unmistakably infused into the thematic structure of Losing, Linda.
After the residency came to a close, Sui Zhen‘s band members – instrumentalists Ashley Bundang (Zone Out, Hot Palms, Ciggie Witch) and Alec Marshall (Hot Palms, Emma Russack) – joined her in the Tokyo-adjacent city of Matsudo to track full-band demos for the material she’d written back in Sapporo. Eventually she returned to Australia to be with her family, with work on the album becoming more sporadic as her mother’s health declined, leading up to her passing in February 2018. “Looking back it was pretty intense,”Sui Zhen says. “There’s moments that occurred that haunt me still. And some of those moments have been recreated in my video project – turned into art, memories of memories.”
After some time away from the album, Losing, Linda was completed near the end of 2018. The resulting record pushes the fascinating sounds and ideas of Secretly Susan further and deeper, drawing equally from the plush realms of Sade, Japanese city pop, the early electronic music of the 1980s, and the mournful swing of Tracey Thorn’s early work. Sui Zhen cites a range of forward-thinking artists from past and present as inspiration, from Lizzy Mercier and Laurie Anderson to Holly Herndon and Suzanne Ciani.
On Losing, Linda, Sui Zhen takes the theoretical form of Linda, a digital doppelgänger and avatar invoking the e-learning channel Lynda and its founder Lynda Weinman, as well as the humanoid robot BINA48. The character of Linda is personified on the album’s cover by choreographer and colleague Megan Payne, whose literal embodiment of Linda interrogates the disembodiment of online life, and calls into question the possibility of death in the digital age.
“It’s an album about missing people after they are gone and trying to pre-empt loss – not only loss of life, but memory and information,” Sui Zhen explains. “I see it mirrored in our increasing need for data storage. Why are we collecting and documenting so much, anyway?”“It’s also a simple ghost story about being haunted by our other versions and our past selves,” she continues. “Our mothers, fathers, ancestors – that possibility that another may exist, intangible in the physical realm, but ever present in memory, so long as memory functions.”
The album will also be accompanied by a digital ecosystem, aiming to create an online world for listeners where they can interact in real time with Linda. “It’s somewhere between a ghost, a memory, and a digital assistant” Sui Zhen explains. In other words, a perfect evocation of what Losing, Linda represents thematically and musically: a trip through the real and the uncanny. Losing, Linda is a lovingly personal and humanistic document of our ever-changing world, the things we lose along the way, and the insights we gain from loss itself. You can see the first stage of the digital ecosystem here: https://livingmemory.suizhen.com.au
Sui Zhen released her debut album, Two Seas, back in 2012. Beguiling and enchanting, the record proved to be an early indication of her fascinating melodic structures and compelling lyrical themes – but it was 2015’s Secretly Susan that would be her breakthrough. Drawing on dub, lounge, and bossa nova influences, Secretly Susan presents as a synth-pop simulacrum, exploring digital life’s myriad intersections with the real.
Sui Zhen‘s musical journey has included involvement in the Red Bull Music Academy, and spanned collaborations with dance and electronic artists like NO ZU, Retiree and Tornado Wallace (featuring on the producer’s standout “Today” from 2017’s Lonely Planet). She’s also been commissioned for scoring and composition work in the ambient sphere, such as creating a “spatially aware soundtrack” to an exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW, and providing the live score for Chris Marker’s 1983 documentary Sans Soleil.
She’s recently performed at notable Australian music festivals Dark Mofo, Meredith Festival, and Inner Varnika. This year, Sui Zhen will also feature on a new Møzaika EP, and will contribute a track for an upcoming compilation for Munich’s Public Possession label.
Losing, Linda track list: 1. Another Life 2. Natural Progression 3. Matsudo City Life 4. I Could Be There 5. Mountain Song 6. Being A Woman 7. Different Places 8. Perfect Place (video) 9. Night River Rider