'Concept albums' generally raise the heckles of most rock music reviewers, and an album that contains an 'artistic statement' emblazoned on it's inside front cover in two different languages even more so. It seems that Ember Swift travelled to China in 2007 and felt an unnerving feeling of having been there before, of deja vu and of an unusual one-ness and comfortable familiarity, thus creating the urge and need to write an album about her experiences.
A lot of The New Project is horrendously cheesy, full of reverb laden drum machine beats, vocoders, swirling synths, deep bass, Spanish guitar arpeggios, whispered harmonies and spoken passages, resembling an ethereal 80's pop blend. The lyrics are generally in English, with the occasional interjection of Chinese, which of course always has to be accompanied by some sort of Chinese sounding musical instrument playing a vaguely Chinese melody. Several of the songs are more bearable like the jazzy reggae 'Float' and the swing tinged 'What were you thinking', but for the most part the album sounds rather dated and middle of the road, smacking of jumping on a cultural bandwagon for no particular reason. This is the problem with concepts and artistic statements accompanying albums, it creates a lot to live up to and a lot of potential for ridicule, with most 'concept' albums generally sounding rather similar in style and bland, listeners would probably be more likely to tolerate what they are listening to if it wasn't elevated to an (over) important artistic experiment with airs of complexity and originality that simply aren't there.
Interestingly the album was partly funded by the Canada Council for the arts. Arts councils seem to be renowned for funding projects like this, should they be using taxpayer's money in such ways to fund projects that are felt to be culturally necessary by bureaucrats but are usually critically and commercially weak.
Published in Inpress