The Bridge in The Mountain's Hands (A Travelog) by Haotian (Album Review)

Travelling across our big and varied world often inspires great change in our perspective. The differences in geography, culture, and lifestyle can be drastic depending on where you are on the globe. Haotian Wang, originally from Yunnan, China, is an experimental composer and producer based in New York. His recent work, The Bridge in The Mountain's Hands (A Travelog), was borne of his early experiences in rural China but influenced by his adult life in the metropolitan epicentre of the USA. Across the album's eight tracks, the listener is gifted with instrumental urban landscapes, sweet Chinese language folk songs, and flirtations with contemporary classical, all imbued with a playful sense of exploration.  

"Sunrise Sunset (Intro)" introduces Wang's nomadic world with ethereal electronics and a frantic, jazzy brass section. "We Might" combines these previous elements but adds some soulful singing to the mix. Here, the subtle instrumentation narcotizes before punchy drums energize. The repetition of the titular line "we might" adds a hopeful air to proceedings, as though simply by listening, one can start to dream of the possibilities that await us if we can summon the strength to turn the "we might" into "we will".

"Clouds" is experimental pop-folk to the highest degree. Wang showcases his sensitive side in this touching song (the fact the lyrics are in Chinese shouldn't matter to Anglophones when sung so passionately). "Border Town Fair" is an exotic sonic journey that places the listener in an unknown new, and unique environment. With a traditional edge but of the more contemporary ilk of Asian artists who are breaking boundaries, Wang mixes acoustic instrumentation with electronic production to transcendent effect. If you've been holed up in your home country since lockdown and cannot afford a faraway trip to new lands, stick this on your headphones, close your eyes, and let the sounds transport you.

"Terrace Fields" is a fantastic album highlight that sees arpeggiated steel drums and synths evolve over earthy field recordings. It's a gorgeous track that unfurls like the sun setting over a rice field high in the mountains, and when Wang adds in some delayed hi-hats and aquatic field samples, things reach a euphoric zenith. "Cabin" has a steady push characterized by loose but impactful drumming, evolving drones and up-close-and-personal spoken word. "Suitcase" employs alluring keys, drum machine, and sweet vocals to create an easy-listening, if not sometimes maudlin and off-key, atmospheric tune. Finally, the outro, the cleverly named "Sunset Sunrise (Outro) (a reverse order title of the intro), is a beguiling ambient piece, one which uplifts with its oceanic tones, stilted percussion, and dreamy environment.


Decorated with sophisticated field recordings and inventive production techniques, The Bridge in The Mountain's Hands (A Travelog) is a snapshot of a young artist successfully developing his sensibilities and talents in environmental ambience and candid acoustic balladry. While some creases here and there could do with ironing out (like the sometimes misjudged vocals or the drastic transitions from folk to experimental), they help reinforce the theme of long-distance journeys and finding your way on a crazy planet. When Haotian balances both sides of this musical dichotomy, the results can be revelatory.  


The Bridge in The Mountain's Hands (A Travelog) by Haotian
Reviewed by Jay Honeycomb on 2022 August 25nd
Rating: 3.5