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World Music CD Reviews Asia & Far East

Various Artists

By Malachai Phelps
Published August 22, 2008

China Lounge feat. Shanghai Divas
Black Flame/Blue Flame

Don’t let the title fool you—as cool as it might be to dust off a stack of scratched-up vintage 78s chronicling the Shanghai lounge singers from the city’s pre-war 1930s heyday, this is a progressive club fusion that merges the traditional and the modern into something more palatable for the afterhours chillout set. That’s not to say there aren’t some gems here, starting with the opening track “Waiting 4 You,” which pivots on a haunting loop of Bai Kwong (often referred to as the Chinese Billie Holiday), and culminating in Sow Keng Poon’s “Lover’s Tears,” which drops her mournful tones against a loping drum machine beat, layered synthesizers and live strings and piano. If more thoughtfully constructed mixes like these had made it onto this disc, it might feel like a more cohesive set, but as it is, many of the other selections—such as the two hyped-up dance tracks from producer Dave Liang’s Shanghai Restoration Project—seem shoehorned in after the fact. Even so, China Lounge is certainly well-intentioned, and deserves a Volume 2 that explores the remix concept more fully.