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2021-07-05

MONG TONG 夢東 - 台灣謎景 Music from Taiwan Mystery

As some of you may or may not know, I'm living in a small Northern German village with a population of a little over seven hundred people. You can imagine my surprise when I recently went on a Sunday stroll and discovered that there's a part near the village centre which appearantly I had never been to before.

At first I thought that there was a flea market, because the street was getting narrower and filled with shacks and people hustling around them.
There were strange smells and spices in the air already from afar, and when I got there it was undeniable: There was indeed a whole Asian quarter, which I had always overlooked!
When I entered I soon found myself inside a vast puzzling maze of markets, bars and restaurants under the dark shadow of enormous buildings with uncountable inhabitants.

Overwhelmed by all these new impressions, yet still trying to soak it all in, I saw an old man - surely far in his nineties - pointing at me from beside the doorway of an ancient building, which was flanked by statues of a huge dragon and another weird creature which reminded me of a toad with a horse body.
I was irritated. Had I done something wrong without knowing? Had I broken some unwritten cultural code?
Luckily not, as the man - a short thin figure, clad inside a robe which seemed at least two sizes too large -, made a friendly face and beckoned me over to him.
Still a little hesitant I walked over, and just when I wanted to ask him what he wanted, he pointed towards the buildings' entrance. It stood wide open, yet I could barely see what was inside, because plumes of red glowing smoke - not caused by fire or any other source I could explain - hindered my sight. I took a deep breath and dared to walked into the mystic fog...

The last thing I remember was that after some moments of adjustment my eyes could catch sight of some kind of altar, on which a square red object was presented. Wait! This is a record, right?

What happened after that I don't know. I suddenly found myself at home, while an invisible hand had already dropped the needle on the record. Had all this just been a dream?




MONG TONG 夢東 - 台灣謎景 Music from Taiwan Mystery (LP) (2021)


Even though it probably wouldn't be too hard to guess that this record has been released by WV Sorcerer Productions, who already added several amazing releases to my collection, I somehow wish I could erase the specific memory of buying Mong Tong's enigmatic album "Music From Taiwan Mystery" from my mind, just to increase the uhm... yes, mystery around it.

Just how intriguing would it be to get your hands on this without any foreknowledge?
If you just look at the whole artwork of the gatefold, the obi strip, the poster that comes with it, there is barely any information other than the artist and title, at least if you cannot read Chinese ideographs.




The music itself also doesn't give you the straightest answers about what this actually is either.

Yet the collage character of almost clishé traditional Taiwanese folk, samples, field recordings, Asian takes on Kraftwerk and other modern electronic music snippets, drones, noise and cosmic waves and some at the point of its entrance almost surprising psychedelic rock, suggests that this is a kind of soundtrack to a journey through Taiwan, with radically shifting sights and moods alternating between modernism, tradition and anachronism.

Maybe this is a kind of homage similar to Saba Alizadeh's experimental ode to Tehran "Scattered Memories"?

Indeed that's not too far from the truth. Mong Tong, two brothers who form are a cross-media duo, centered mostly around sample-based electronic music, have released two art books collecting "Taiwan's cultural and mystic attractions, including special temples, purgatory facilities and Buddhist mummies". Those books were accompanied by soundtrack cassettes, both in a very limited run.

So technically "台灣謎景 Music from Taiwan Mystery" is a reissue compilation of those two tape EPs, but given the in itself mosaic-like nature of this music and how its timelessness defies pedantic format questions, it's probably also fair to (re)view this as an album, just like I am doing it here.

And as such I just find it utterly fascinating and captivating.
It throws me into the middle of a story, which I don't even come close to deciphering, yet it still transfixes me from beginning to end. Even though those may not even exist.

Magical mystery.

With the strong potential to positively affect Taiwanese independent tourism.







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