Until last year, the previous decade was spent living and working in Hong Kong - cool place to get to know - and a good period to be there - music-wise it was interesting to witness the transformation of Karoke-going canto-yoof into ketamine-snorting-hard-house-nutters .. even more fun to play some of the more 'underground' clubs just north of the boarder in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, where if the beatz dropped to anything less than 150bpm - you would get threatening cheap-suited gangsters standing in front of the stage gesturing that they better damn-well-speed up - OR ELSE !! Life is tough in China - therefore - beatz they be damn fast - and the drugs - don't even go there mate !!
Despite a few years where the kids of Hong Kong really did seem to embrace the 'thud-thud-thud-thud' of dance culture - always there in the background was the mind-numbing drivel known locally as Cantopop - not to be confused with the motherland equivelant - Mandopop (no less) .... Rather than try and describe this dirge - if you feel interested - then check out the wikipedia overview saves me having to do it (I was actually going to sum up the non-diffrerences between Sammi, Faye (actually she is quite OK in a 'I stole all my licks from the Cocteau Twins' type of way), Joey, Kelly, Twins etc etc ad nausea - but pah I say - can't be bothered ... (howz that for a lazy review !!) ...
So, where and why and what for ......
Ok - no excuses for the above - you see - when I was a newby-Gweilo in HK, this was the image I was confronted with on trains, busses - everywhere ya seemd to look - there she was - naked - lying there - with no explanation as to why - being a non-chinese reader - it was to remain an unsolved mystery for years - she is ofcourse Ms. Mok (莫文蔚) - and this is perhaps her first CD - it is pop music - sung in Cantonese (and perhaps some Mandarin) - never actually heard all of it - but for reasons unknown - I have never quite been able to shake off the excellent cover-art (yep thats 'art'- really !).
No excuses for the following image either - this is just another example of the sort of 60-foot high bill-board ads we were at times subjected to in the HK humidity - life can at times be tough in foreign climates !!
Years and years pass - and periodically there appear further images of our Karen around Hong Kong - by this time I am fully aware who she is - she is actually a very successful actress as well as canto-crooner. Films of note in my books and well worth hunting out should you feel that way inclined:
- Fallen Angels (1996) (director Wong Kar-Wai, 1996) - also stars HK canto-star Leon Lai.
- Viva Erotica (1996, co-starring Leslie Chung and Shu Qi) - One of the first mainstream movies tailored for 'Category III' (adults only) release in Hong Kong, this opens with a wildly orgasmic sex scene between Leslie Cheung and Karen Mok and ends with the cheering sight of an entire film crew working in the nude. Add mainland actress Shu Qi (later of Crouching Tiger etc etc) starring as a Category-III porn star - and what more can you really ask for !!
- Shaolin Soccer (2001, dir: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi) - a complete spoof Shaolin Warriors form footie team adventure - this is pure stupidity at its best - uber-cool in my books. Stars a host of canto-celebs including a stunning plastic-faced performance from the dad of bad boy canto-rocker Nic-Tse.. Go hire from block-buster today !
- So Close (2001) - inferior HK version of Charlies Angels - worth it for the swords-play alone!
sooo --- back to our karen - despite these classic pieces of HK-movie-magic, I never really bothered to check her audio stuff out... The turning point I suppose was the mass-advertising campaigns for the 2001 album 'Golden Flower' and supporting tour (I think it must be the cling-film that did it for me - basically anyone prepared to strip and be completly wrapped up in see-through-plastic deserves a listen in my books!
My curiosity had been prodded enough for me to check out this platter in the local HMV listening station - only bothered with the first track - a freaked out distorted guitar driven beat-based thang - all traces of anything pop-like seemingly blown to pieces by the production of Taiwanese guitar-thrasher Wu Bai..... so I parted with my 100 bucks and promptly carted it off home ...
On further listneing unfortunatly it became clear that the stand-out track was (and is) indeed that first one - a most-uncommercial thing with a mish-mash arrangment and a vocal delivery that at times is barely audible, with further distortions achieved by double-tracked voices and electronic-squeaks and farts - not at all what you would expect from a 'main-stream' HK-canto-popper - indeed even Ms Fay Wong at her most experimtal times (whilst still working with her ex Dou Wei), never achieved anything quite so noisy...
A few months later when me and John were busy working on some remixes of Hindi star Asha Bhosle, I tried to get the masters for this track through some contacts we had with her label at the time Rock records - this led to nothing as they apparantly made it clear that this track had zero commercial worth and therefore had no reason to be re-worked - a tragedy really - although pleasing as it is - the beats and bass are typically generic (what you would probably expect from the studios of Wu Bei - a confirmed metal-rock-geetarizt), they did indicate that some of the more 'easy listening numbers might be available - forgeddit !!!
So here ya have Karen MOK Man-Wai (莫文蔚) - 一朵金花 - 散光
and.... as last seen whilst touring her show back in 2002 in Singapore: