Blood Wine or Honey
Hong Kong based hypno-tropicalia duo Blood Wine or Honey are set to release their second album ‘DTx2’ on 25th June 2021. Made up of seasoned multi-instrumentalists James Banbury (synths, bass, percussion, cello) and Joseph von Hess (vocals, clarinet, sax, percussion), they create a heaving, heady brew of brazen sax themes, lo-fi/hi-tech electronics, densely layered cello inflections and motorik drums.
These explorations start with the dance-floor then go above and beyond, taking notes from post-punk and tropical polyrhythms, always anchored by the bass weight of the sound system. Their distinctive sound is created in the industrial warehouses and hidden rural settlements of Hong Kong, surrounded by the low-end throb of heavy machinery, the lingering scent of hand sanitiser and the humidity of the South China Sea. Written and recorded during 2020-21, new album ‘DTx2’ looks ahead to an uncertain future, drawing deep on their experiences and influences and welcoming a host of co-conspirators.
Superstar and old friend of the band KT Tunstall came to work with BWoH after they contributed a DJ mix for her lockdown ‘KTRave’ on Instagram. ‘Attraction’ was the result. Wonky bass, found-bounce beats and Buddy Rich drums smashed out by Tim Weller (Marc Almond, Future Sound of London, Goldfrapp, The Chemical Brothers, David Axelrod) resulted in a bonkers production with passionate vocals and layers of harmony.
Jean Daval, aka Preservation (credits include Yasiin Bey fka Mos Def, MF Doom, RZA, GZA, Raekwon, KRS-One, Aesop Rock), provided truffle-hunted beats, synths and basses, which, when put through the BWoH mangle, emerged as ‘Messenger’.
‘I Shall Rush Out As I Am’ is a collaboration with legendary pop provocateur Paul Morley and Janice Lau of Hong Kong band David Boring. The track is based on the words and the spirit of sci-fi writer, satirist, literary critic and radical feminist Joanna Russ and took shape quickly, with tinges of A Certain Ratio and memories of Suicide, provoking Janice to an authentic scream-of-consciousness delivery.
Multi-talented London singer, musician and composer Kamal (Neighbourhood Recordings) took time away from being the Next Big Thing to transform ‘Testing Time’ with funk-edged keys. A key figure in the extraordinary ‘90s Hong Kong music scene, Zoë Brewster contributed vocals.
Roughly divided, the album’s first set of songs make relatively short statements, punchily self-contained with common threads. The final four tracks, ‘Testing Time’, ‘Embers’, ‘Embrasure’ and ‘Echt Embrace’ disperse into flights of mantric fantasy, with quicksand time-signature shifts and key-changes emerging into a more introspective zone with a fervent pulse, a shift in energy: stamina over speed.
“During These Difficult Times. A clause so commonplace it’s a sardonic refrain. The hard times become the norm; the sentiment is redundant. This album is a mode of expression in a tight space—Hong Kong. The city is a limited but not limiting zone, a small world encompassing an infinite Mandelbrot set of Ballardian high-rise and hidden activity. It’s not a ‘lockdown’ album. In Hong Kong we’ve never been truly locked down, but shut in; isolated in a wider sense, provoking us to look outside the 2-person bubble and enlist some unexpected collaborators. We discovered, fittingly, that ‘DTx2’ encodes all sorts of things: it’s a human enzyme, a protein coding gene; a make of Yamaha electronic drums from 1996; a model of underwater drone.
It feels like everything has already been said but in the small spaces between all the monumental tropes there is, perhaps, room for some interstitial fauna; some remaining species of idea worth talking about. There’s a tone of agoraphobia, rather than fear of small spaces. It’s dancing inside a wardrobe, a furtive, prohibited kind of fun. No one is supposed to be really having a good time. Things are very serious but there is life in small stories, stories in our small lives, our intricate journeys, reflections, interjections, modes of travel, heavy hold-baggage and carry-ons.”
‘DTx2’ follows BWoH’s 2018’s debut album ‘Fear & Celebration‘, described in Mojo as “Post-punk sax mingled with ghostly choruses and lo-fi hi-tech electronics”, and 2019’s ‘Tomorrow’ EP that The Vinyl Factory noted “nods to Ethio-jazz melodies, syncopated electronics and raw sax punches a la Comet Is Coming”. Their 2017 breakout track ‘Anxious Party People’, from the EP of the same title, received a shortlist nomination for Track Of The Year at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards. BWoH’s music has been played by BBC 6 Music, NTS, Worldwide FM (UK), Radio Nova (FR), Beats In Space (US), RTÉ (IE), Radio Bern (CH), Radio X (DE), CR2 903 (HK), KCRW (US), and Bandcamp Weekly.