Producers often use the term “pop” loosely, and Ian Chang is no different. The drummer extraordinaire, who is a mainstay of Son Lux and Landlady and has collaborated with many other musicians, works with software called Sensory Percussion which allows him to embed myriad sounds onto simple (or complex!) drum hits. The effects he creates feel less out-of-place than a typical experimental record created with meticulous chops and samples, though fans of the mainstream would argue that it’s not pop. Yet that argument misses the point entirely. Chang’s first full-length album, 属 Belonging is a tapestry of earworms that all work innately together, honoring its title through experimentation and collaboration.
The intricate process to create this record and its personal significance to Chang give 属 Belonging an emotional clarity. Though he didn’t have the title when he began writing and recording, the namesake theme runs heavily throughout. Listen for the disparate elements, including clicks and wails alongside more typical industrial effects, and you will realize that there is a distinct path through the noise. “Teem” is a conversation between bacteria, flitting about until they reach the cyborg with a bottle of disinfectant halfway through, warping their world forever. Melodies come from all directions on “Food Court,” supported by a machine’s heaves and sighs. Even “舞狮 Lion Dance” marches to its own beat, allowing one of the album’s most colorful melodies to shine.
Having grown up between Hong Kong and the US, Chang is intimately familiar with a split identity. And he added another fracture when he moved to Dallas, interrupting his own sense of “belonging” to NYC, where he had lived for 10 years. Through his solo work, he has been able to hand onto, if not bolster, his Chinese roots; across both of his record, several tracks (and one album!) are titled using Chinese characters with English counterparts—though some translations are more accurate than others. “雀舌 Bird’s Tongue” refers to a tea Chang drank while making that track but “醉罗汉” is more accurately translated as “Drunken Arhat [enlightened buddhist]”; “Drunken Fist” simply worked best as the English title.
When reaching out to collaborators, Chang told sunhouse, “I wanted to have the track fully formed before sending it to people and then see how they responded to it.” Then, each collaborator took what he had made and infused with it their own spirit of belonging. Kiah Victoria is featured on “Comfort,” where she sings, “I feel so in between, I want to go far from here but now you’re standing right here.” KAZU of Blonde Redhead makes a promise to always live honestly on “Audacious,” and even the delicate oh-oh-ohs cooed by Hanna Benn on “雀舌 Bird’s Tongue” bring us closer to her.
Regardless of your affection for the left-field, you will walk away from 属 Belonging with an attachment. If not to the sounds therein, then to the folks who made it and the folks who love it and even to those who have simply heard it, with no judgment passed. It may be small, but it is a shared experience between us, and my bet is that when we start digging, we’ll find a whole lot more in common.