I’ve had I Come To Shanghai’s Eternal Life Vol. II for quite some time now. As previously discussed here on Popblerd, Robert Ashley and Sam Frigard added an “early download & listen” incentive to their KickStarter project. Over the last month, I’ve had their record pop up on my iPhone as I go for long drives or as I do chores around the house. Much like one of my favorite albums, Chicago, there is a constantly flowing suite of music that seamlessly blends from one song to another. This tradition is building off their first volume of the Eternal Life “series” of records (there are plans for a third and fourth record to follow) and at a running length of 23 minutes, it flows very quickly. Often times, a little too quickly. Not akin to Volume I (which I felt was perfectly paced), this record feels a bit rushed. Certain songs feel almost too carefully trimmed to not overstay their welcome, such as the perfectly melancholic “Tied Down” lasting a measly 1 minute and 23 seconds. This only a minor complaint, because each coinciding piece works great together and compliments each other; however, I would’ve enjoyed a little less ADHD from my ICTS.
The album kicks off with some brooding synth bass, feeling that of a horror film soundtrack composed by Depeche Mode. “Nothing To Conceal” is probably one of my favorite tracks of the album. It flows lightly and melodic until an interesting percussion break down towards the end that channels the likes of Bill Elm and Woody Jackson. “Tied Down” then flows quickly into the almost orchestral-sounding “Empty Eyes.” The subsequent transition into “Another Holiday” needs to be heard on a quality speaker system to be appreciated. The passenger jet-esque sound washes from left to right, giving way to one of my favorite lyrical songs of the album..
“Some day you’ll take it too far, dreaming in the middle of the day (I doubt it).
Wake up and open the door, the world outside your window doesn’t wake.
But when you wake, the day is already running (run, run, runnin’ out).
You can’t escape, you know we’ve all got it coming (run, run, runnin’ out).
So draw the curtains down, and crawl back into your bed.
Another holiday from not much and nothing yet.”
This happy-go-lucky jingle about the banality of life is quickly shifted over to the briefest, albeit most funky, song of the album “My Favorite Drug.” For the next few songs, we’re taken to the cold and misty Pacific Northwest for a suite of songs that feel inspired by the cult-classic television series, Twin Peaks. “Moose, Indian,” “The Loon,” and “You and I” certainly fit together thematically and slows down the pace somewhat in contrast to the more chaotic beginning of the album. The album is capped off by “Swallowed by the Light,” which makes me feel like I’ve reached some confusing Hindu drug-trip euphoria. All in all, it’s a solid record. Although not as memorable as Volume I, and a bit too disjointed after hearing what they can do with their long verse sound in their more recent single “In Your Own Way,” I’m still finding plenty of reasons to go back to this record. I’ll be interested to hear it flow all together when Vol. I and II are pressed to vinyl in the near future.
You can listen to the whole thing below and download, donate, and preorder their forthcoming vinyl LP right here.
UPDATE: Here’s a quick music video for “Tied Down.” Watch it full screen and try not to blink… I dare you.