Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 15 News List

Trip hop you don't stop

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Weng Yu-chun, as iCat, is one of Taiwan's neglected indie talents. Show her some attention at The Wall tomorrow.


In the latter part of last summer, with little fanfare and a feather-light tour schedule that took in a number of cafes and bookstores around town, local singer Weng Yu-chun (翁宇君) released what I consider one of the most overlooked albums of last year.

Making music under the name iCat, Weng has honed a surprisingly mature sound in the short space of a debut seven-track mini-album that deftly dodges the music critics' broad categorizations.

Weng is so hard to pin down musically thanks to her unique blend of computer-composed instrumentation on the album, titled The Mirage in Time (時光魅影), which varies from track to track and within the songs themselves. There are wholly acoustic tracks, followed by trip hop numbers with sweeping string sections and songs that seem to drift off into dreamy ambient electronica land.

Laid over the instrumentation, Weng's crystalline voice ties her music together with a huge, almost operatic power -- the kind that, when it hits the high notes in huge, wince-inducing waves, can raise the hair on your neck. With that type of vocal talent, she indulges the temptation to let loose quite regularly, but stops well short of making the music a trite exercise in laying classical vocals over quirky electronic bleeps.

When she mellows out, and it's when she does that her songs reach the greatest depth, iCat sounds not unlike Portishead, as a rueful, washed-up waif, although to see iCat it's apparent that she's anything but that. She actually looks and sounds more like Faye Wong (王菲) might be if the Mando-pop diva were to let her hair down and take a few sips from the spiked punch bowl. She's catchy and quirky in just the right doses.

"The comparison to Faye Wong is often made, and I guess it's true, I do like her more alternative material and the voice is quite similar," she said when reached by phone Wednesday at the barber, where she was getting a pre-concert trim.

As a visual artist, Weng also employs a battery of visual, multi-media effects for her live shows that measure up to the music itself.

Weng used to perform mostly with session players, but has rounded up a stable group, who will play with her live at The Wall tomorrow. Opening will be Shino (林曉培).

The Wall is located at B1, Roosevelt Rd, Sec. 4, Taipei (臺北市羅斯福路四段200B1). The music starts at 9pm and tickets cost NT$300.

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